Friday, March 26, 2010

Books that have made me cry

Working backwards:
  • Away by Amy Bloom. I still have 10 or 15 pages to go in this, so don't spoil it for me. I was going to finish it last night but I had to put it down and cry myself to sleep, basically. Goddamn this book is sad. It's about a young Russian woman whose family is killed in a pogrom. She starts to make a new life for herself in New York but then hears from a cousin that her daughter is still alive. It seems possible/probable that the cousin is lying but she sets off to Siberia, alone, anyway, and much horrific bullshit befalls her on the way. Key sad quote: Her friend Yaakov asks why she insists on taking this death journey; is it because the girl is her belonging? Horrified, Lillian replies, "No. Not that she is mine. That I am hers." Moms! (B.T.Dubbs, this book has a lot of sex in it.)
  • The House of Mirth. I was within 20 pages of the end of this when my plane landed; I actually wished the flight was longer so I could finish it and cry in peace.
  • Gone With the Wind. The part where Scarlett is crying out for Rhett but no one tells him and he doesn't come; the part where Melanie dies, of course (uh, spoiler alert); and probably the end too.
These books made me really sad but I'm not sure if I actually cried:
  • Arrowsmith (Sinclair Lewis)
  • East of Eden (Steinbeck). I never finished this but there was a really tragic part in the first 100 pages.
This got me thinking, have only books written by women actually made me cry?

Here are some other books that were sad but didn't provoke actual tears, for whatever reason (maybe I just wasn't in the crying mood):
  • Mrs. Bridge (Evan S. Connell)
  • Rabbit, Run (Updike)
  • Jacob Have I Loved (YA book by Kathrine Paterson)
  • Probably any books about violence against Jews (The White Hotel, The Fixer, etc.)
Sorta drawing a blank now, though it seems likely that about half the books I've read were sad.


  1. The Painted Bird made me cry, but it also made me sick to my stomach. I was emotionally invested in East of Eden, but no tears. I also felt a few droplets during Confederacy of Dunces, but I was able to choke them back. :)

  2. I will never forget that scene in Rabbit, Run, where Janice (Rabbit's wife), smashed, accidentally drowns the baby in the tub. Now that was writing. The pace of the prose in those paragraphs was frantically drunk, for lack of a better expression. Updike was pure genius.

    Books never make me cry (unless I misplace them) but I sometimes get choked up watching movies like Life Is Beautiful, for instance, or sappy chick flicks like Love Actually. Go figure.

  3. Cheesy movies make me cry all the time. Especially on airplanes.

  4. I love books that make me cry. I pretty much seek them out.
    Amy Bloom has always intruiged me, as well as East of Eden. I'm definately going to have to read these. :]

  5. Great list. House of Mirth reduced me to tears too. Poor Lily Bart. I picked it once, when it was my turn to pick for book club, and everybody liked it, but nobody else was as devastated.

  6. Um, this will not be acceptable, but I recently cried reading EEEEE EEE EEEE? The part where he is feeling sorry for his younger self, hunched in the occult section of a Waldenbooks while his mom went shopping really got me for some reason. I think I'm doing it wrong.

  7. I like this post idea.

    It's funny, I also felt emotionally invested in East of Eden yet never finished it.

    I don't cry very often, so when I do it is memorable.

    The last book that made me cry was Don't Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine. I think the emptiness in her prose/poetry emptied me.

    I cried the first time I read "Meditations in an Emergency." I can't really explain that one.

  8. I think 90% of my comments here are recycled from my blog, but here are books that made me cry:

    A River Runs Through It (hits way, way too close to home on multiple fronts)
    The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am a giant nerd)
    Where the Red Fern Grows (oh man, that is a traumatic book for a third-grader who likes animals to read)

    And the most recent pop cultural thing that made me cry was The Wire final episode.

  9. My third grade teacher read Where the Red Fern Grows out loud to us and I remember everyone crying. I wasn't much of a crier back then, plus I'm allergic to dogs.

    Oh man, you know what was sad? Evening by Susan Minot. That book destroyed me.

  10. I cried my eyes out over Where the Red Fern Grows. Also, it made me almost pass out at that scene where that kid Rubin falls on the hatchet and dies.

  11. Such a great post, though I'm surprised your list isn't longer. Or maybe I am just wayyyyy too sensitive. For myself I would add: The Devil's Arithmetic (YA, Holocaust), Jhumpa Lahiri stories, Savage Beauty (about Millay), Lorrie Moore stories (esp. cancer ones...), We the Living...just finished Museum Pieces by Elizabeth Tallent a couple days ago and cried. I'll cry at anything with a dying animal or a persecuted Jew.

  12. Someone should write the ultimate tearjerker about a young persecuted Jew and his/her separation from his/her beloved old dog.

    Oddly, maybe, it takes some hardcore sadness for me to cry while reading. But it takes basically nothing to make me cry in TV/movies. I remember once I turned on the TV and the Golden Globes were on and Renee Zellweger had just won something and I started crying during her speech. I don't even like her. And I'm pretty sure she won for something horrible like Chicago.

  13. i think i'm incapable of crying at books. too much of a remove or something. like, i'm always thinking, well, this isn't real, it's a story. (i don't really read non-fiction. the effect might be different.) with movies/tv, there's no middle-man (voice of the author) between me and the characters. it's much easier to pretend that actors are real people than to pretend that words on a page are real people. i cried at de-lovely and star trek (2009). de-lovely, because of my nostalgia for cole porter/indiana, plus the very emotional lyrics and melody to "in the still of the night". star trek, because of my nostalgia for star trek, and its fundamental importance to my life from age ~8 onward. so in both cases, it's not exactly the art that made me cry, but personal associations they brought up. who knows, maybe this will happen with a book one day, and i just haven't read it yet.

  14. Oh God. Garp. Owen Meany. Stranger in a Strange Land every time I've read it which is like 39 times. I cry easily more easily with books than movies. I can't list them all. Most recently Herta Muller's The Land of Green Plums which I'm still reading and which I've cried all the way through since page 7.

  15. It's hard to read while crying. Pages get blurry.

    The end of Music for Torching was real sad. I just remembered. A.M. Homes really manipulated me by making the youngest son so goddamn sweet and then getting him shot.

  16. Agreed. The House of Mirth is brutal.

  17. Speaking of John Irving, what about good ol' THE CIDER HOUSE RULES? Even the movie did it to me. And the book, absolutely. Sadly, to my own shame, I was reading it out loud to my 13 year old at the time.*

    * Don't worry, I passed hastily over the barnyard animal sex part.