Books that make me cry? Frankly, it’s the one I’m writing right now. Where are the WORDS?
A friend of mine, Chicago writer Lee Reilly, did a project for her master’s of fine arts program about books that made people cry. She researched among her friends and colleagues, among friends of friends on Facebook, etc., and found the same books came up again and again.
Few writers might not declare that their goal for a story is to make the reader cry—but should writers ignore such an honest and engaged reaction from a reader? There was something instructive there, she decided, and set out to see what it was she could learn from the books that pinged readers’ emotions so strongly.
Of course, many of the books her sources sent her to read, she hated.
The book that makes me cry might make you mad. Or laugh.
We’re all wired differently, and we bring all our individual experiences to the page when we read. That’s the beauty of reading. It’s also the beauty of writing. As writers, we have the chance to connect with so many people, in completely different ways. I mean with the same words—we write one book, and each reader experiences it in a unique way.
We may be Muggle-born, but we’re magic.
The books that have made me cry?
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
My elementary school teacher read this aloud to us over a period of days. It’s a sad story about dogs. Look, I can’t tell you anymore without losing it, so just look it up yourself. Dogs. Do you know why dogs ever enter a story? Right.
The book is about race and privilege in America, primarily, but there’s a very small quiet moment when the author mentions in passing a big, strapping college student who eats care-package peanut butter sandwiches because the dorm food leaves him wanting. The sandwiches are wrapped in wax paper, and the paper crinkles in the still night of the dorm. That crinkling wax paper is what loneliness sounds like.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
I stumbled across this book a long time ago, and a lifelong fan was created. But it’s right there in the title, friends. The heart is lonely; it seeks. Things are not going to end with a teddy bear picnic in this one.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is the example I gave to my friend when she asked. There’s a moment when Atticus Finch loses the case he was always going to lose, and justice has not been served. But the people he was trying to do right by give him a show of respect for how he handled the losing battle. It gets me every time.
The list is short because I’m a tough customer when it comes to tears. Unless, of course, there are dogs.
What was the first book that made you cry?
Image courtesy of Itcher.com.