I picked up a recording of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn from the Fremont Public Library and started listening to it in my car this morning. I haven't read this book in almost 30 years, and I remember details from this book better than I remember things in the book I finished yesterday or the newspaper I read this morning. They are odd details, like going to the store to buy a paper collar or the story of the blue baby that survives because it is born in a hospital. I don't remember reading this book more than once, I also don't remember it as being a particular favorite but these details have stuck with me.
It could be because I was a girl who loved the library and wanted to read through all of the books in alphabetical order. It could be that I was Francie's age when I read the book. It could also be that Betty Smith was very good at describing the details that make a place or shape a life. The soup bone with scraps of meat attached to it that with some tired vegetables makes a rich and nourishing soup flecked with meat, the bowl of nasturtiums on the librarian's desk, or the immaculate linen and threadbare tuxedo jacket on Johnny Nolan.
I am not sure, but it is a bit magical while driving on the Illinois Tollway to hear something that reminds me of being 14.