Several years ago, actually it might be many years ago at this point, a friend gave me a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Knowing me and my penchant for reading the classics, she said, “You just have to read this!” So I put it on a bookshelf with every intention of pulling it back down and reading it the next time I was “between” reads. It sat forgotten on my shelves for decades until my wife pulled it down. “I’ve always meant to read this,” she told me. Well, what do you know? So had I! So we decided to read it together, our own little Husband and Wife Book Club…or at least we decided to read it concurrently as opposed to the cheesy You-read-to-me-and-then-I’ll-read-to-you model of spousal book clubs.
My wife got started right away. I went to the library the next day to check out a copy so I could get caught up. As luck would have it, the two library copies were checked out. Fair enough, I thought. I’ll just check out the copy of the e-book format from the 3M Cloud Library on the Kansas State Library’s website. Uh oh! That one was checked out too. Never fear! The library has options! My next stop was the library’s One Click Digital portal. Success! The electronic audiobook format was available!
I jumped right in. And let me tell you, if I had actually been reading this book rather than listening to it, I likely couldn’t have put it down! What’s the audiobook equivalent of “couldn’t put it down”? Anyway, what a charming story! Now, it isn’t cover-to-cover suspense. It isn’t deep on a Hemingway or Melville level. And nobody would call it an adventure. But it has so much more! It’s sublime, touching, sometimes sad and other times uplifting. It has a sense of realness to it…like real people living real lives. There are no CIA agents running about, no British frigates blasting away at the French, and not a single sword-wielding villain. To put it into more of a recent best-seller sense think Angela’s Ashes or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It’s the real kind of story that almost makes you remember living in pre-WWI Brooklyn. It evokes the nostalgia of going to the penny candy store to spend two of your pennies or dropping a whole nickel at the cinema for a matinee.