In much the same way that it's possible to have a love-hate relationship with a person, it's also possible to have a love-hate relationship with a book. The books listed below are books that I have loved for their power but also hated for their ability to slash my heart into oozing little bits.
I am not a person who cries often, but somehow or another, each of these books slipped past my guard. Some made me cry a little and some made me cry a lot. At least one of these books caused me to startle my sister one idyllic Sunday afternoon when I bolted from my bedroom, sobbing uncontrollably and searching for tissues.
I've attempted to list the books from smallest to greatest impact, meaning that the first few just made me tear up and the last few made me audibly cry.
I've also included the lines or scenes that sent me over the edge. (Non-spoilery, of course.)
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
This fictionalized letter from an old preacher to his young son is actually a highly underrated novel that packs an emotional punch. Tipping Point: John Ames sitting quietly in the church, watching the light move across the floor.
All Clear, Connie Willis
In her last installment of her Oxford Time Travel sequence, Willis really pulls out all the emotional stops. While her stranded historians are working hard to survive WWII, Willis works hard to ensure that her readers feel all the feels. Tipping Point: "I have ridden long, weary miles, she thought. I have searched long, hopeless years."
The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang
Iris Chang's account of the Japanese occupation of Nanking is a true heart-breaker in itself, but I made matters worse. A few years ago, someone I love was in the hospital. In my haste to get there, I panicked-packed an overnight bag and threw in the book I was reading at the time, which happened to be The Rape of Nanking. I have to tell you that it was the wrong sort of read for an extended hospital stay. While it's an important book, it's also a grim read. In this case, the situation in which I read the book made everything seem much grimmer. While I'll admit that my feels were already ballooning before this book sent me over the edge, the experience still packed a wallop. Tipping Point: How the rolls of film got out of Nanking.
Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein
Tale of a downed American ATA pilot attempting to survive Ravensbruck. Full of poetry and heartache. Tipping Point: The red bikini.
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
All the sustaining benefits of friendship are highlighted in this excellent account of two girls embroiled in WWII. Nobody puts the thumbscrews on your feels quite like Elizabeth Wein. Tipping Points: 1) "I desperately want to grow old." 2) "Kiss me, Hardy."
There's No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children, Melissa Fay Greene
This is the book that sent me sobbing into the living room, tears and snot blubbering down my face, while I wailed, "I CANT READ THIS! IT'S TOO AWFUL!" My poor sister tried to reason with me ("You don't have to read it, you know.") but it was already too late. This account of the African AIDS crisis left my heart desolate and influenced me to get involved in orphan care. Tipping Point: A tiny child leading a smaller toddler by the hand, wandering down out of the mountains and joining the children gathering at Haregewoin Teferra's door, crying to be adopted.
Of course there have been more than five books that have upset me over the course of my reading life. For whatever reason, however, these five have been the most memorable.
The next time you're in the mood to let a book punch you right in the feels, feel free to pick up any of these. You won't be disappointed.
You'll be sad, yes. But not disappointed.