What Book Made You Cry?

Reader Evelina Anville mentioned that Uncle Tom’s Cabin made her cry when she was a kid. I had the same experience with the book at about the same age (9 or 10). But the book that I read 5 times when I was a child and then a teenager and that made me weep hysterically in a way that no other book has since was The Gadfly by Ethel Lillian Voynich. The relationship between father and son it portrays is so tragic that its trivial little love story pales in comparison.

I’m pretty sure that if I read it again at my current advanced age, it will still bring me to tears.

I also cry every time at the end of the second part of Don Quijote.

Which books made you cry?

P.S. I just noticed that I tend to cry for male characters and not for female ones. 

34 thoughts on “What Book Made You Cry?”

  1. I wept at the Gadfly’s end too, but my most vivid memory was weeping at Aleksandr Kuprin’s short story “гранатовый браслет” or in English “The Garnet Bracelet”. Except for that, don’t remember more weeping instances.

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  2. A few books made me cry. The only nonfiction one thus far to make me cry was Carl Sagan’s Billions & Billions, specifically, the ending chapters written by his wife, Ann, narrating his final days as he was dying from pneumonia. It was really touching, and since Carl Sagan is one of my heroes, it made me really weepy.
    Fiction which has made me cry includes A Thread of Grace, The Manticore, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Stone Fox, Kokoro, Silence (Chinmoku) and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
    I’m not sure if most of these would make me cry if I were to read them again, but when I first picked them up, they profoundly moved me.

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      1. Quevedo is a cinch. Remember in “Cartas del parque” when the escribano suggests, “Quevedo nunca falla”? Too bad they decided to stick with Bécquer.

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  3. Thanks for the shout out! 🙂 Lots and lots of books make me cry: almost every Charles Dickens novel, _The Picture of Dorian Grey_, Arcite’s death in Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale”, “Dover Beach”, Virginia Woolf’s sucide note to her husband. The list can go on and on. I cry easily when I’m reading! 😉

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  4. I cry at all cheap sentimental moments, in print and on television. I especially cry when a non-conformist but sympathetic character is misunderstood by her friends/family at very little provocation. E.g: Jo of Little Women cutting her hair off to get money for her family, and her family instantly jumping to the conclusion she stole it. I read it when I was in Class VIII, and the sheer injustice and lack of trust, in return for her selflessness and love, made furious tears spring to my eyes. I also cried at the last scene, where, after her more conventional/self-absorbed/delicate siblings have married and had children, gone to Europe to study art and died, respectively, she finds her unconventional happiness with the dispossessed old German professor, as he walks with her under the same umbrella.

    So, in conclusion, the travails faced by the non-mainstream and their small joys and victories. That’s what makes me cry.

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  5. Frankenstein was the first book that did it for me. When I got to the end where the monster realizes that vengeance has brought him nothing and drifts away into the Arctic darkness my chest ached with profound anguish at the vast empty indifference of the universe. I was like six.

    The deaths of Gavroche in Les Miserables and of Esmerelda in Notre-Dame are heartbreaking. Pretty much everything that happens to Maria in Play It As It Lays makes me want to tear my skin off.

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      1. There was an animated movie on Les miserables that played on TV when I was a kid, and it made me so sad that I have NEVER wanted to read Hugo’s novel afterwards.

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  6. The Golden Compass, which is the last book of the His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman… heart wrenching. Technically this is a “young adult” series, but given the antagonist of the story is basically all of religion, it’s pretty mature, and so I recommend it to just about everyone… which is why I’m not giving away why it’s so heart wrenching 😉 go read it!

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  7. I just finished Stephen King’s Insomnia–I didn’t expect to, but I cried at the end; it was sort of a beautiful ending, but sad. And I’ll probably read it again someday. King is a much better writer than most people give him credit for.

    The biggest cry I can remember recently from a book was in the middle of Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible…I literally sobbed for hours, and then went into my daughter’s room, gathered her up, and brought her into my bed to hold onto her all night. That is a book I will NEVER read again. Too painful.

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  8. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men made me cry like a baby when I was a teen.

    I have to be careful not to cry when I teach Sor Juana’s Answer to Sor Filotea… and Cesar Vallejo’s poetry (!). Gosh… what a nerd…

    And… I cried when I read Soren Kierkegaard, especially The Crowd Is Untruth, which is something I do not tell people because it troubles me too much.

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        1. My husband was so traumatized by this book that during the crash of 2008 he kept having fantasies of us all having to become seasonal workers picking peaches in Georgia for a pittance.

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  9. Old Yeller, My Friend Flicka, Bambi…any one in which the animals die. Those all made me cry when I was a kid.

    Now, laugh out loud while reading — only Terry Pratchett’s managed that.

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    1. For laughs you might also try (if you haven’t already) Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. The former is probably the best dark comedy ever produced in the English language. The latter lightens a paranoiac conspiracy thriller (sort of) with some of the punchiest punch lines. Nowhere else would you find the phrase “hand him his ass” smack in the middle of a lengthy synopsis of a Jacobean revenge tragedy.

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  10. Jodie :Now, laugh out loud while reading — only Terry Pratchett’s managed that.

    If you haven’t already tried them you might also get a good laugh from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent or Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. Agent is probably the best dark comedy ever produced in the English language. Lot 49 is a paranoiac conspiracy thriller (sort of) but Pynchon tosses in some of the punchiest punch lines. Nowhere else would you find the phrase “hand him his ass” smack in the middle of a lengthy synopsis of a Jacobean revenge tragedy.

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  11. I can remember crying at end of “Laughing Boy” by Oliver LaFarge and “Death Comes for the Archbishop” by Willa Cather. I read both in high school and several times since. I still have my well thumbed,$0.75,1960 paperback edition of “Laughing Boy”. Paperbacks then were made significantly more durable than hardbacks today. “Death Comes for the Archbishop” was published in 1927 and I think it may be Cather’s best novel, although she wrote many excellent ones. Laughing Boy was published in 1929 and won the 1930 Pulitzer Prize. It was the only novel that LaFarge ever wrote; but why write another when you hit the bullseye with the first? I think most educated Americans are aware of Willa Cather and at least some of her novels, but I find very few today are aware of LaFarge. He was a Harvard anthropologist studying the Navajo in northern Arizona near the Four Corners area and published this novel as his master’s thesis.

    The novel concerns Laughing Boy, a young man from the northern Navajo Reservation with very little experience with whites, who lives a “traditional” life, and the woman he marries, Slim Girl, who was taken from her family at an early age and imprisoned at a missionary school, forbidden from using her language, forcefully converted to Christianity and trained to be a maid for whites. Like most young men, Laughing Boy falls for Slim Girl because she is beautiful. Slim Girl sees Laughing Boy as a proud, but naïve, young man whom she can control and who can teach her how to return to her culture and learn to be Navajo again. His family is very opposed to the marriage because she is not culturally Navajo. Her family is dead. They live in an isolated canyon. He makes traditional heavy silver and turquoise jewelry (men’s work) and he has to teach her to weave (women’s work). But she has a secret life in the town near the railroad tracks. The relationship with the white man is unclear. Does she just take care of his house? Is there more to her relationship? Certainly many of the “acculturated” (read that as “adulterated”) Navajos who live near the town think so. She uses the money she makes to buy trade goods and support them, but she wants to quit working when they have saved enough money and move to the north to be away from the polluting influence of white culture. They almost make it.

    LaFarge captures both the beauty of pre-urban Arizona and the beauty and rhythm of the Navajo language. When I was a child in the 1950s the scenery still looked like his descriptions. The Navajos I have known all liked the novel very much and thought it was an accurate depiction of their culture and the conflict with the dominant culture. After Harvard LaFarge went on to become a well known anthropologist and archaeologist with significant discoveries relating to Olmec civilization in southern Mexico.

    His son Peter LaFarge was an early 1960s folksinger best known for his “Ballad of Ira Hayes” about the Pima Indian who was one of the marines in the famous photograph raising the flag over Mt. Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Now there was a tear jerker:

    Call him drunken Ira Hayes,
    He won’t answer any more.
    Not the whiskey drinking Indian,
    Nor the Marine who went to war.

    Ira Hayes returned a hero,
    Celebrated through the land.
    He was wined and speeched and honored;
    Everybody shook his hand.

    But he was just a Pima Indian;
    No water, no home, no chance.
    At home nobody care what Ira’d done,
    And when do the Indians dance?

    Then Ira started drinking hard;
    Jail often was his home.
    They’d let him raise the flag and lower it,
    Like you’d throw a dog a bone

    He died drunk early one morning;
    Alone in the land he fought to save.
    Two inches of water in a lonely ditch
    Was a grave for Ira Hayes.

    Call him drunken Ira Hayes,
    He won’t answer any more.
    Not the whiskey drinking Indian,
    Nor the Marine who went to war.

    I left out some of the verses, but you get the gist.

    The film that leaves me crying, despite my best effort not to, is “Camila” by María Luisa Bemberg. It was only the second Argentine film nominated for an Academy Award. This is the actual story of Camila O’Gorman, the daughter of a wealthy, socially prominent Buenos Aires family, who eloped with her lover, Uladislao Gutiérrez, a priest, in 1847. They were caught in 1848 just a few miles short of the border with Brasil and subsequently shot on orders of Juan Manuel de Rosas, the governor of Buenos Aires province and dictator of the Argentine Confederation. Camila was 20 years old and 8 months pregnant.

    The film was finished in 1984, one year after the fall of the dictatorship of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The terror of the Rosas dictatorship is evident throughout the film and I consider it a slap in the face to the dictatorship that had just fallen the year before and was well known for their terror tactics, including the imprisoning of pregnant women and (unlike Rosas) executing them after the baby was born. The babies were then given to military families and favorite supporters for adoption. (See “La historia oficial” and “Vidas Privadas” for the continuation of the 20th Century story. They just leave me in speechless horror, not in tears.)

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    1. I haven’t read these novels, but now I’m thinking maybe I should.

      The movies I did see, and they are, indeed, tragic. ‘Camila” is often shown in classes on Latin American literature, and students always weep in the end.

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      1. Try Vidas Privadas on your students. When I show that, people are just dumbfounded. Of course, the naïveté of American audiences is somewhat less than it was a few years ago when we were sheltered from all negative news, especially about ourselves.

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      1. It is a great novel describing the Mexican/Indian culture of New Mexico and Colorado, the invasion of the Americans. Cather was one of the best at describing the settling of the American west. It is somewhat veridical, being based on the experiences of Archbishop Lamy, who was the Bishop and the Archbishop of Santa Fe. I can also recommend “My Antonia” by the same author. This is the story of a Bohemian immigrant family in Nebraska.

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  12. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathon Safran Foer. The scene describing the plight of the animals in the zoo of a city that has been bombed during world war II

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  13. Most recently, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and Stephen Baxter’s Ark.

    Ark itself is hard sf and follows three options that humans organize in the face of a cataclysmic flood that covers the earth. The sad part is that, after dedicating most of the resources of the world, irradiating most of Colorado from the launch session and so on, the micro society can’t get along and devolves into an authoritarian order in a tin can. So basically the futility of all that sacrifice.

    I’ve read most of Murakami’s novels this summer and a lot of them have brought me near to tears. It probably has something to do with the prose style and how it is rendered into English from Japanese but also the way Murakami explores and explains reality? Probably. Also, I identify with most of the characters as they are fairly solitary and introverted.

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