Virgilia Peterson

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In writing another novel about an Irish family in Brooklyn ["Maggie-Now"], Betty Smith has more courage than foresight. Her Brooklyn "Tree"—symbol of all the unsung beauty of the commonplace—has taken root in millions of hearts all over the world. No younger tree planted in the same spot can hope to be so vigorous; inveitably, it will be overshadowed….

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If the Nolans were stereotypes; if their strength and weakness, their joy and sorrow appeared in picture-postcard coloring; if love and birth and death as described in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" were distinguished only by the warm sentiment in which she bathed them, the book nevertheless embodied such authentic nostalgia that none but the emotionally impervious could resist it. One need not be made of stone, however, to resist Miss Smith's new Brooklyn story. (p. 5)

This is not to say, however, that there is no place in literature for warmth of sentiment and affirmation. It is only to point out that to bring the Brooklyn of yesterday to life, one "Tree" was enough. (p. 38)

Virgilia Peterson, "Another Tree in Brooklyn," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1958 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 23, 1958, pp. 5, 38.

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The Times Literary Supplement


Virgilia Peterson