Joy In The Morning doesn't possess any of those flashy literary embellishments. It is is what it is --- A sweet, gentle, and honest story about a young couple named Carl and Annie who fall in love, and against both of their parent's wishes, get married and move to the Mid-West where Carl is attending college, studying to become a lawyer.
I was curious about what Betty Smith wrote outside of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, which is one of my favorite books, and while Joy In The Morning has a similar charm, it's not as epic in scope nor rich in lyrical flow. It appears to be the last book Betty Smith wrote, and it took her awhile to get it going and completed due to her failing health. Health aside, Smith always was a genius about characterization, she truly makes you become attached to her characters when you may not want to be, drawing you into the worlds they embody and for Joy In The Morning she places us square into a 1928 college town, allows us to roam up and down the sidewalks, wander into stores, get acquainted with with folksy characters and become embroiled in bite-sized small-town shenanigans.
The honeymoon phase of Annie and Carl's marriage unfolds slow and nice, we get to feel all the awkwardness, financial strains, and stomach growls that come from a young couple who has thrown caution to the wind for whirlwind romance. The best parts are when Annie comes out of her shell and begins to attend college classes, sparking her interest and talent for writing. Though she's quite naive, her wholesome ways do charm after awhile as her earnest curiosity shines a new light on everyday things, allowing the reader to take a second glance at her observations, and she seems to be the more aware and down-to-earth partner in the relationship.
Carl is, um, kind of an ass. He talks down to Annie a lot, and get jealous and upset over the friends she makes within the town. I also sensed some homophobia from him with Annie's endearing relationship with the town florist, but I had to remind myself this was 1928, and Carl is a stiff collared "good ol' boy", hence his ambivalence towards people who he believes aren't on his 'level'. From the looks of things, Carl probably needs Annie more than she needs him, she brings the spice to his life, as she made friends with common law couples and found employment with flapper-styled prostitutes. Never a dull moment is to be had with Annie. Baby Carlton will be so lucky to have Annie for a mama!
Problems do resolve themselves too quickly, and a lot of Carl and Annie's disputes are quelled by the magic of Annie sitting on Carl's lap. Still that didn't bother me too much because like the title, derived from one of my favorite Bible quotes (Psalm 30:5 "weeping may endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning"), sometimes problems do have a way of working themselves out when we step back and let a little morning light into them. Okay. Sorry for sounding like a frilly and glitter-crusted Hallmark card, but Betty Smith always does that to me, she makes you appreciate the little surprises in life, makes you see that setbacks are merely part of the growth experience.
The edition I had a few little essays in the back --- two written by Smith's granddaughters --- that explained about the book and Smith's writing life. Annie and Carl were really fictional stand-ins for Smith and her first husband, and once I understood that Joy In The Morning was sort of in memory tome towards the relationship she shared with her late ex-husband, then the story took an even more sentimental turn.
Joy In The Morning is the kind of book that you'd want to pinch it's cheeks because it just so gosh darn cute, but also snuggle up next to and sip a warm drink with because it has a story to tell, and you'll want to listen to every word.
+ Previously reviewed and posted on GoodReads