5 Books That Made You Cry
Reading is an intimate act and we open ourselves up to deep emotional responses when we begin a new novel. Throughout our lives there are some books that stop us in our tracks and leave an indelible mark upon our lives. Five readers share the books that made them cry.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This novel follows a father and son through the blasted landscape of a post-apocalyptic world. This is The Lord of the Flies on a global, adult scale. Forget your Mad Max, Divergent, and Maze Runner fantasies; The Road is a bone-crushing confession of humanity.
I broke down when Frank McCourt’s infant twin brothers died in Angela’s Ashes, and I wept when Jack described his heroic mother in ROOM, but there were passages in The Road when I had to close the book and grieve, gripped by a suffocating sadness of how real this tale could be, and probably already is in the war-torn corners of our world. Like all good fiction, the thematic and symbolic layers add weight to the carefully structured plot, which marches the reader down a road of horrors, down the throat of a slow, inexorable realization that we are dearly vulnerable and our species is depraved.
Matthew P. Winkler has taught and mentored teenagers at middle schools, high schools, and colleges in New York, New England, China, and Japan. His passion for education has propelled him twice around the world and through all fifty states. He divides his time between California and Connecticut, traveling the world to give presentations and lead workshops related to his TED-Ed video "What Makes a Hero?" and his book Mentoring Teenage Heroes: The Hero's Journey of Adolescence
Love Story by Erich Segal
I have vivid memories of the first time I read this book. I was 18, in my first year of uni and living at college. I'd borrowed the book from a girl who lived across the hallway. I distinctly remember lying on my bed, silently bawling my eyes out but unable to stop reading. It was all consuming and, as is the nature of such things, too quickly over. Love Story is but a slip of a book, but it packs a mighty punch. I knew that this book was going to have a tragic ending (I'd already seen the 1970 film version). What I didn't expect was that so much of the middle of the book would make me cry too. Living in Oliver's head as he told their love story was the closest that my 18 year old self had gotten to falling in love. And I fell hard.
Asimenia Pestrivas is a former Indonesian and English teacher, currently working on her Master of Applied Linguistics. When she's not learning (about) languages, she enjoys music, other people's dogs, and listening to audiobooks, which resolves a decades-long struggle between wanting to read and needing to do other things.
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
It doesn’t take much for me to burst into tears but Looking for Alibrandi was a memorable one for me. Set as my year 10 English text, I sat down to read it on the school holidays. What I thought would be the usual boring school text, I clearly remember sitting on my bedroom floor, bawling my eyes out at the suicide of one of the main characters. Melina got into the mindset of a teenage girl so well, and being of that age back then the response Josie gave to the death struck a chord with me. It became so clear how the pressures of year 12 and the expectations of family, friends, school can severely affect mental health. The realisation by Josie that perfect on the outside doesn’t mean perfect on the inside and the raw grief she expresses was a perfect moment in the book that completely moved me.
Amanda Tenney has loved books ever since she was little. This led to a job at Angus and Robertson for the best part of a decade where she spent a great deal of time finding the next book she wanted to read, and trying to get first dibs on the advanced copies. Now a mother of 3, she gets quite confused when people say “you wouldn’t have time to read with 3 kids!” because there is always time to read.
The Pipers Son by Melina Marchetta.
A follow on - though not exactly a sequel to - Saving Francesca. The Pipers Son is a YA and is one that I read first at about age 14. The story essentially surrounds a young man whose life fell apart after high school and he’s been wayward ever since, but begins the journey to find himself again. It is in part a love story, but the thing that has stuck with me through my very many readings over the last (almost) 2 decades is the utter destruction of a strong knit family following the loss of a beloved family member. This story has had silent tears when initially empathising with a situation that I could never imagine, and as I grew up and had similar loss has me absolutely sobbing with renewed grief about how devastating death can be to even the strongest bonds. Marchetta writes in a way that makes you feel for even the most unlovable characters. She writes always with a level of truth behind her stories which makes them able to touch her readers quite deeply. For me this has only increased with age, something quite special for a YA.
Donna Bassett is a teacher of English and Humanities and loves to travel Europe and South East Asia. She is unashamedly a Potter fan and dedicated to Gryffindor - and has the Book Week dress-up photos to prove it.
Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett
From the first page, Favel Parrett sets up a tragedy that cannot be out-run or ignored. There is a keen sense of something terrible just around the corner for the three brothers of this book.
Parrett captures the 1980s feel of Australia, from the show bags to the sense of everyday. There is also a very real sense of 'cold' which comes from the book being set in the inhospitable southern coast of Tasmania, but more intensely because the boys are living in such impoverished conditions. They don't have access to regular food, they don't have heat, they don't have proper clothes. Their lives are miserable.
But there lies the beauty.
Although their lives are horrible from our perspective, Miles and Harry never really acknowledge it. Harry, the youngest brother, finds beauty and magic in the everyday. He is happy to wander the countryside while his deadbeat dad is out fishing and his brothers are surfing.
It's that innocent, wandering Harry that draws the reader in - and that's Parrett's plan, I'd wager. But for me I associated more with Miles, the middle child. His older brother has escaped his brutal father, but Miles is now the eldest in the house and (after an incredible scene with a flying shark!) Miles is forced to abandon school and take up a fishing life. Miles knows it's his death warrant, that if he becomes a fisherman like his father, then the rest of his life is going to be absolute crap.
I recommend this book to everyone.
I won't say anymore about it, except that I read this straight through (both times) and when I found myself finishing the last few pages it was close to 3am. I couldn't stop, even though every page was breaking my heart. I ended up taking a long hot shower and really crying my guts out at 3am! (Disclaimer: I'm not a complete baby, but the story really got to me. I've got three kids and because of Parrett's magic I couldn't help but put my kids in the positions of the boys in this book.)
It's a book about tragedy, but you get that sense from the very beginning. It’s seriously one of the best books I've EVER read.
Ben Langdon is a writer, a high school teacher and the publisher of this blog. He has three kids and he thinks that fatherhood has made him more emotional and a bit of a mess, really. He loves talking about books and hearing the opinions of other people. The Five Books That… series of posts is his way of getting inside the heads of other readers as well as extending his long list of ‘to be read’ titles that will make their way to his bedside table.
Use the comment section below to add your own favourite tear-jerker books.
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