"Tomorrow Will Be Better" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
Betty Smith wrote four books, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” (1943) considered to be a classic, is still in high school libraries. Her other books may be familiar to readers of a certain age: “Tomorrow Will Be Better” (1947); “Maggie Now” (1958), and “Joy in the Morning (1963).
“Tomorrow Will Be Better” was republished in 2020. It’s based Smith’s life, it tells of the story of Margy, living in a Brooklyn tenement in the 1920s with her Irish parents.
Margy’s father works at a job in an entry-level position, never advancing as he’d planned. Margy’s mother stays home, minding the small apartment with a hall bathroom shared by other apartment dwellers. She frequently shares her bitterness about her lot in life with her husband and child. Usually evening meals consist of fried potatoes and eggs. Every penny counts.
At 16, Margy leaves school to help support her family. She has dreams of a marriage filled with love and children. Margy briefly gets a taste of what it would be like to have her own money and a man who interests her. She believes she can do better than her parents and others who have had their dreams thwarted by poverty, made more grim by the arrival of children.
Because Margy considers herself less than worthy of a life that is “above her station,” she settles for a man she doesn’t have much affection for. He is cold and withdrawn following their marriage. Poverty and disappointment are recurring themes in each of Smith’s books. However her characters are compelling as they have dreams and hopes for something better in life.
Smith’s books are based on her experiences growing up with dissatisfied parents and her marriage to a disgruntled man. Her children were born before she could finish her education. Her desire to write came in as a distant third to her efforts to appease her husband and raise children.
I include Smith’s books among my favorites. Although the lives led by the protagonists are simple, the desires, aspirations, goodness and forgiving nature of the characters are not. Their attitudes reflect the human condition and its complicated struggles with morals, dreams for the future, and the reality of the present.