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Tomorrow Will Be Better: A Rediscovered Classic    by Betty Smith order for
Tomorrow Will Be Better
by Betty Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2020 (1948)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Betty Smith's historical novel opens on a quote from Tibullus, translated from the Latin: 'Hope ever urges on, and tells us tomorrow will be better.' The quote serves as an apt summary of the story. Though originally published in 1948, this atmospheric classic is still timely in portraying the intergenerational challenges of dealing with dire poverty.

It's set in 1900s Brooklyn, New York, where Margy Shannon grows up the only child of parents who struggle to pay the bills, always hoping for a better life. Margy's mother Flo is an embittered woman, who constantly bemoans her lot, yet does little to improve it. Her father Henny escapes Flo's whiny nagging whenever he can. He knows he's stuck with this meagre life till he dies. Margy learns 'to make the best of things.'

Margy leaves school at sixteen and finds a job as a mail reader at the Thomson-Jonson Mail Order House. She thinks her kind boss, Mr. Prentiss, is wonderful, despite his domineering mother. She earns twelve dollars a week, which she gives to her mother, receiving only two back for lunch and travel to and from work. Irish Frankie is one of the few boys Margy knows and she rather likes him. As readers expect, they end up married.

Margy tries to make it work, but it's hard. Frankie insists that she give up her job and has little interest in intimacy. How will this end? It's Margy who works out what needs to be done, and gets on with it. After all that has happened, good and bad, she still yearns - and works - for a better tomorrow.

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