"Laurie's going to have a mighty easy life all right."
"Annie Laurie McShane! She'll never have the hard times we had, will she?"
"No. And she'll never have the fun we had, either."
"Gosh! We did have fun, didn't we, Neeley?"
"Poor" Laurie, " said Francie pityingly.
Well, first things first. Let's get to the girl talk. Lee or Ben?
Those guys! You know, the first time I read this part I just died right along with Francie as she reads her letter. Lee walks right into Francie's need of someone, her need to have someone hold her and understand her, even though she knows, at first, that he's some sort of player. I remember feeling that, and it's a hyper-sensitivity which makes you a prime target for some serious heartbreak, and we all have to go through it in someway or other. But I read it now, and although I'm sad, I think "Lee, you are a jerk." It's telling, I think, that Francie can only tell Lee about the happy parts of her life.
But we're left feeling ambiguous about Ben, almost that he's too perfect. I think that what's needed is time. And Francie has five years. Five years to sort out what constitutes real love vs. the Anne-ish ideal of romance. I'm not sure that Ben will be it, but this is what I love about him: Instead of making Francie promise away her life on unrealistic premises ("and if I don't come back, never want to marry anyone else") Ben tells her that he knows his mind and will wait for her to know hers. Good for him. Well, much more could be said in the long female tradition of date-analyzation, but we'll move on to the subject of this post which really is...
"Dear God," she prayed,"let me be something every minute of every hour of my life...let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sort of.
Just thinking about writing about this book can put me in agony! Especially here, at the end, what do I want to say about it? That I love at the end how Francie is ironing for Neeley just as she did for Johnny at the beginning. I love little ten-year old Florry Wendy there at the end, watching Francie getting ready, just like Francie had done years before. Life is changing, though. And it's not just the war, and growing up. It's society moving forward. It's Sissy having her baby in a hospital of all novelties! (Blessed Sissy, I love all of the side stories about her.) It's a complete change of lifestyle for the Nolan's when Katie marries McShane, and Francie heads of to college in order to have the option of changing or not changing her Brooklyn accent.
Earlier this week I looked up two things on line: First, the tree of heaven. Second, Brooklyn. The tree that grows in Brooklyn is the same kind of tree that grows in the little ravine next to my backyard at home. It's growing among some other trees just outside my house, here. It's considered sort of a weed, my landscape designing sister told me. Maybe like the dandelion? It's true, though. The tree really can grow anywhere. And Brooklyn. I really wanted to go down there this week, it's so close, but unfortunately the logistics of our schedule got in the way. Maybe this next week I will. But I looked up a few streets on Google maps. Lorimer, Grand, Ten Eyck, Majeur, Graham and Broadway. Francie's world was pretty small! Betty Smith grew up in this part of Brooklyn with the kind of poverty that the Nolan's endured. I want to walk around and feel what it might have been like.
I love this book because it's a great story. I love it because there is a lot of truth in it, some of which is disturbing, and some of it is beautiful. And I'd like to close with something profound, but life is moving on here and my family could stand to have their mother tear herself away from the computer, so I'll just say, I hope you enjoyed the book. And I hope if you haven't read it you will.