Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith (1963)

Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith

From the original review of Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith in the New York Herald Tribune, September, 1963: The tree that grew so wondrously in Brooklyn has been transplanted, these 20 years later, to Midwestern soil and the agreeable news today Is that it flourishes nicely out there, too.

This is not to say, you understand, that Joy in the Morning  by Betty Smith is a sequel to the sensational seedling that Betty Smith planted way back then. And yet, in a way, it is. In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the girl was Francie Nolan, and a fetching Irish-German child she was — imaginative, romantic. tough-fibered and crazy about books.

In Joy in the Morning the girl is Annie McGairy, just turned 18, also Brooklyn-born, Irish-German, a dreamer and a realist and crazy about books. They could be cousins. They could be Betty Smith.


Another autobiographical story

For if one may say so, Miss Smith—as she set down to write Joy in the Morning — must have been remembering when she, too, like Annie McGairy, left school at 14 to work; fell in love with a Brooklyn boy studying law at a Midwestern university and married him.

She herself became a student at the university, and then a writer, beginning with one-act plays; and had a daughter. Who says a writer has to go across the world to find a story?

So Joy in the Morning jogs along at the steady, even pace of a narrative whose author is in full command of married couple, quarrels and tears, love and laughter (Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”), hardship, fear, small triumphs that are really great ones, parenthood, new day dawning.

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A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

See also: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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A solid, honest narrative

It would be too easy to say that this is a sure-fire pattern, when in all truth its success depends on the tone that Miss Smith gives it, too honest to be merely sentimental, too personal to be detached.

Being one whose early writing was for the theater, she all but inevitably writes in terse, solidly visualized “scenes” that let the dialogue carry most of the burden.

Indeed, one can imagine this novel as a play the young Betty Smith might have written, a play that could have found its way into the department of wholesome productions for college and community drama groups.

This is said with respect. Miss Smith’s novel is a good one in the sense that an old-time Broadway manager once said that a good play contains a character for whom you find yourself rooting.

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Joy in the Mornign by Betty Smith

Joy in the Morning on Amazon

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A new retelling of an old story

I would observe that Joy in the Morning lacks the freshness and vitality of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It does not, as Lewis Gannett said of that earlier book, “sing.”

But it would be a stony-hearted reader of Joy in the Morning who did not find him or herself moved by Annie McGairy of Flatbush, as she walks across the Midwestern campus and worried lest a cop will ask her to leave, as she eavesdrops outside a classroom, taking notes and doing assignments on her own, as she awaits and experiences the birth of her first child.

It will occur to you that Miss Smith has overlooked no ingredient to round out a new retelling of an old story. But then it also will occur to you that the retelling has a simple unpretentious air of truth.

It can make a big difference in favor of such a book as hers. (reviewed by John K. Hutchins)

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Maggie-Now by Betty S

You might also like: Maggie-Now by Betty Smith

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