Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top 10 Tuesday: Books That Make Meagan Cry

So it's my turn to take a crack at the Broke and Bookish's Top 10 Tuesday, and today's theme is books that make you cry.

I don't really consider myself a crier, but when I started trying to put together a list, it turns out when it comes to books I'm kind of a bawl-baby. Here are ten from what turned out to be an embarrassingly long list.

WARNING: I tried really hard to be vague enough with these so I don't ruin anything for those of you who haven't read them, so sorry if anything is too vague. I don't think there are spoilers, but proceed with caution. I think I'll review a few of these in the future so let me know if you want a fuller post on any of them!
  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    Connie wrote a great review of this novel a few weeks ago that is pretty much how I felt when I read it. The story of Liesel as a young German girl living during WWII is achingly sweet and equally heart wrenching, and I pretty much lost it towards the end when she finally gives Rudy what he wants, but I think the parts that got me the most were the scenes of Liesel with her foster father, and those describing Death's view on death (what an interesting concept). I love Connie's quote in her review: "It's a book that made me cry, but not in a chick flick, I'm so glad they both swallowed their pride and got back together sort of way, but in a deeply, meaningful sort of way."
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
    This is another novel dealing with WWII but this time from the perspective of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Presented in the format of written communications between people (letters, telegrams, journal entries, etc.), the novel follows Juliet Ashton as she learns about a book club which formed on Guernsey during the German occupation of the islands. This book is one of those gems that made me cry with laughter, as well as cry from the tragedy of it all. The way the characters are slowly built into being from bits and pieces of information is both beautiful and moving.
  3. Atonement by Ian McEwan
    Yet another WWII novel. (I'm beginning to see a pattern here...) The novel starts in 1935 when young Briony Tallis writes a play to celebrate the return home of her older brother to the family home. In the course of the evening, one of her cousins is attacked, and in an immature act, Briony, who witnessed some of the crime, blames Robbie Turner, the son of one of her family's servants. Her actions have ramifications that last for years. This is the first Ian McEwan novel I've read, and I absolutely loved it. A friend recommended it to me, but gave away the ending in the process. In a twist that doesn't happen often, I actually think the book was better for me because I knew what was going to happen. It was one of those books that was actually physically challenging to keep reading because the horror of the inevitable was crushing, but I made it to the end, and my pillow was absolutely soaked when I turned the last page.
  4. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
    One more novel dealing with war, but this time WWI. This novel is the memoir of the author, Vera Brittain. When the war started, Vera was poised to begin university, but due to circumstances was unable to attend at first. She writes, "It is not, perhaps, so very surprising that the War at first seemed to me an infuriating personal interruption rather than a world-wide catastrophe." The rest of the novel reads like this. It is the story of Vera's war, and her heartbreaks become your heartbreaks. But while it is extremely personal, it also does a fantastic job representing the effects of WWI on her generation as a whole, so as a reader it is moving on two levels. And two levels = twice the tears.
  5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
    Susie Salmon is 14 years old. She loves her family; she just had her first kiss; and she's just been murdered. Normally a book with this storyline would read like a disturbing murder mystery, but the writing so beautiful it reads more as poetry about loss. Sebold's style is haunting, and as you learn more about Susie and what happened to her, the fact that she is forever trapped in her 14-year-old self as she watches her family grow up and move on made me go through a box of Kleenex or two.
  6. Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro Kazuo
    This book is narrated by Kathy H., a British woman who recalls growing up at Hailsham, a boarding school somewhere in the English countryside. Kathy remembers Ruth, her sometimes friend and often enemy, and Tommy, the boy she loved and lost to Ruth. The simple tail of Kathy's first love is beautifully crafted by Kazuo, and wold make a lovely novel in its own right. But while Kathy and her friends have the same love story a million others have, they are different. And as the horrifying truth of their purpose and inevitable end is revealed slowly layer by layer, the beauty of their story is trapped within a nightmare. This was another book that I had a hard time finishing because it is so, so sad, and what gets me most is how the characters just accept their fate so easily. It's just the way things are, and it's just tragic.
  7. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
    This novel about a country boy and his huntin' dogs was a classic when I was little, but no matter how may times I read it, it just killed me. Any animal lover will love this, and will feel empathy with the boy's relationship to his pets, and that empathy will make you cry. It's a fact.
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Another childhood favorite, this iconic novel explores issues of class, racism, and morality in the South through the eyes of young Scout and Jem Finch. Almost inexplicably Lee deals with these deep issues yet manages to inject moments of great humor. In between those moments of humor are painted the images of prejudice and ignorance that bring the elements of tragedy to the novel. And the stories of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are enough to bring tears to the eyes of the most hardened reader.
  9. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
    This novel has a futuristic setting. A second civil war has been fought in the United States, but this time the dividing line was between those who are pro-life, and those who are pro-choice. When the war ends, it has been decided that abortions are illegal, but when a child is between the ages of 13 and 18, parents or guardians can choose to have the child 'unwound'. Unwinding is a process where all parts of the body are harvested and given to others as donations. The main characters in the book are Connor, a 15-year-old whose parents are tired of his rebellious attitude, Risa, a ward of the state, and Lev, the beloved son of a large family. Each of the three have been slated for unwinding for different reasons, but the three go on the run to avoid their fate. I picked up this novel at the library when it was displayed on a shelf of award-winning books, and was blown away. I literally stayed up all night reading this book by turns bawling my eyes out and slowly leaking tears. I'd describe it as a mix between Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Scott Westerfeld's Pretties series -- teenagers who fight to shift the paradigm of an amoral world. There were definitely some political moments that I wasn't completely comfortable with, but the author did an excellent job projecting a devastating objectivity. This is one of those books which is painful to read, but in a cleansing, redemptive way.
  10. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
    Many of you may be familiar with Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner, and this novel follows some of the same themes. It is the story of Mariam and Laila, two women who live in Afghanistan in the three decades which span the exit of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the internal strife caused by the power void, and the rise of the Taliban. I was riveted by this story for several reasons. First, it paints such a vivid picture of the oppression of women during this time period. Second, the relationship between Mariam and Laila is fascinating. It is complex, but displayed so simply, and it was very easy for me to become invested in their lives and their story. And third, it was astounding to me to learn about what was happening in Afghanistan in a period of time I remember. For instance, there are references to the movie Titanic, and when I think about where I was when that movie was released, and compare it to what these characters were enduring at the same time, it is mind-blowing. It was for these last two reasons that this book made me cry. Knowing that these women were being victimized, and at a time not made objective by the passage of time, but in my lifetime was quite disturbing and distressing.