Listography Week 2 — Literary Tearjerkers

Welcome to yet another listography post — and today’s prompt is SO much fun:

Books that Made You Cry

Right? Super exciting.

Without further ado…

1. Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis. This is my favorite C.S. Lewis book (that I’ve read so far).  It is a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, constructed as an accusation against the gods from Queen Orual, Psyche’s ugly older sister.  Unlike the traditional myth, where the sisters are portrayed as jealous villains, Orual is a complex character who is deeply sympathetic despite her flaws.  The book’s title comes from a line in the text where Orual, upon experiencing a profound transformation, asks, “How can the gods meet us face to face till we have faces?”  The idea is that human beings must “become real” before they can commune with the divine, stripped of pretense, self-deception, and lies. This involves standing “for good or ill itself, [without] any mask,” as Lewis explained later. And yes, I was so moved by Orual’s final epiphany about love and self-honesty that I cried.

2. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry. This haunting novel takes pace during a 30-year period of turmoil in Mumbai, India, and follows the stories of four characters from a variety of backgrounds.  It deals with issues of economics, oppression, sexuality, coming of age, politics, and prejudice.  The characters are compelling, and the way their lives interweave is surprising and lovely.  I cried at several points in the book, thanks to vivid writing and characters I came to love.

3. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros. I first read this book in high school, but I don’t think I really “got” it until I picked it up again a couple months ago.  This is a gorgeously-written book about a headstrong Latina girl coming of age in Chicago’s inner city.  Framed as a series of simple vignettes about things like hair, neighbors, and sex, Cisneros weaves her narrative in a stunning way.  I don’t want to give anything away, but there are some gut-wrenching scenes near the end that brought tears to my eyes.

4. In Sacred Loneliness, Todd Compton. This ambitious work tackles a profoundly difficult topic — Nauvoo-era polygamy and Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives — and does it with compassion and grace.  It was not an easy book to read, but I found myself marveling at the hardship and, yes, courage and faith, of these women who sacrificed basically everything for their beliefs.  I don’t know that I’d recommend it to people just starting to explore church history, but it was a fascinating read and had me crying in more than a few places as I imagined myself in their shoes.

5. Limbo, A. Manette Ansay. This is a lovely memoir about family, faith, art, and illness.  It follows A. Manette Ansay’s transformation from a devout concert pianist to a non-believing fiction writer — especially as she combats a mysterious illness that threatens to cripple her.  I thought her prose was beautiful and her narrative both whimsical and grounded.  Though I grew up in Utah, not Wisconsin; and though I was raised Mormon, not Catholic; and though I’ve always been healthy, not ill; and though I still believe and she doesn’t, I felt that I could relate to her experiences and struggles as if they were mine.  Which I suppose is the hallmark of excellent writing.  It was that affinity that made me a little blubbery at times.

6. The Standard Works, God.  😉  I don’t think there’s a book in the LDS cannon that hasn’t made me misty on multiple occasions.  These days, I’m especially prone to emotion when I read about Jesus’ teachings and ministry.  He always astonishes me with His wisdom, compassion, and radical love.

7. The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren. Is it nerdy that a pop theology book made me cry?  Yes.  Beyond nerdy. But this book gave me such an unexpected and exciting perspective on Jesus’ message that I got a little carried away.  It focuses on the Master’s revolutionary teaching on the Kingdom of God, and helped me shift my understanding of Christianity as a religion primarily concerned with the afterlife to a religion primarily concerned with everyday life.

8. The Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer W. Kimball. This book got me pretty worked up, and I’m not entirely sure it was all in a positive direction.  But it certainly made an impact on my life.

9. Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls. Because only a heartless reprobate could read a book about brave, loyal dogs who die and not weep uncontrollably.  Let the record show I am no such person.

10. Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer. I suffered through hundreds of pages of that nonsense just to get to the good stuff, and all it turned out to be was a devoured headboard and some torn up pillows.  Honestly.  Not to mention THE WORST plot twists of all time.  I’m not saying I cried, I’m saying I should have.

Those are mine.  What are yours?  Everyone needs a good cathartic cry from time to time, so be sure to share your favorite tearjerkers in the comments below!

About Katie L

A doubter by nature, a believer by grace.

Posted on January 10, 2011, in Listography, Pop Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Heather Crandall

    OH MAN! Breaking Dawn made me cry from relief that the worst book series ever was OVER and I didn’t have to suffer through any more SH*T. 🙂 And I cried because it was so stupid and the ending led up to…. NOTHING. 🙂

    I also cried in the last Harry Potter book. And I cried in House of Sand and Fog (by Andre Dubus) and My Sister’s Keeper (by Jodi Picoult). No, I didn’t see the horrid movie adaptation.

  2. Where the Red Fern Grows got me too. I basically never cry though, so I don’t think I could make that list. I could make a list of “books that would make me cry if I had a heart” maybe.

  3. Where the Red Fern Grows got me too. I basically never cry though, so I don’t think I could make that list. I could make a list of “books that would make me cry if I had a heart” maybe.

    Ditto. Mostly I only get choked up at war movies.

  4. And books that are so bad I might cry at them: I do not read them. If I find I have started one, I do not finish it.

  5. Til We Have Faces is certainly one that makes me cry! That is, in fact, where I first saw the name Maia 🙂 I just finished “The Glass Castle,” (stole it from your library), and that too, made me weep…

  6. Heather, I cried in the last Harry Potter book too. I haven’t read the others you mention, but now I’ll have to add them to my list!

    Lanny, hahaha. Exactly. 🙂

    Kullervo, the Twilight series is like a train wreck: you can’t look away, as much as you wish you would.

    April, of course you deserve the credit for introducing me to Till We Have Faces. I enjoyed The Glass Castle too, and I’m certain it made me cry. I’m glad you were able to find something interesting to read while you were holed up in my house! And I CAN’T WAIT to see you in just a few days!

  7. Kullervo, the Twilight series is like a train wreck: you can’t look away, as much as you wish you would.

    I am surprisingly good at looking away. Too much to read, too little time. I just drop a book whenever it stops being fun or interesting. I quit reading the third His Dark Materials book when I only had like three to five pages to go. I was bored of it and wanted to go to sleep, and the next day I wanted to read something else.

    Also, I have seen the Twilight movies and liked them enough, so I will probably never feel the need to read them.

  8. Here’s the thing about Twilight. The writing is pedestrian, the characters are irritating, the sex is beyond tame, the relationships are unhealthy, it’s a feminist’s freaking nightmare…

    but there’s just something about it.

    Also, anything that spawns products like this (WARNING: naughty) disturbs me greatly. In a but-I’m-still-totally-fascinated kind of way.

  9. Also, the fact that you stopped reading a book with three pages left is enough to drive me crazy. Just finish it, will you???


  10. Nope. It was like three years ago or more. I will probably just never finish it.

  11. Also, I heart Jacob. Especially with his shirt off.

  12. He can keep me warm in a sleeping bag any time.

  13. I have never read “Where the Red Fern Grows” although I’ve seen the movie a time or two.

    I have read the entire Twilight Saga, and did so with the understanding that the characters are fairly typical of hormonal angsty teenagers. I’m around them on a regular basis, and I’ve seen girls declare that they are eternally in love with a boy that they’ve gone on one “date” with (the date consisting of sitting with each other at lunch and holding hands).

    Anyway, only one book has ever caused me to cry, and that was “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson. And the tears were from the very end, not the sad part near the end. Go figure.

  14. Anyway, only one book has ever caused me to cry, and that was “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson. And the tears were from the very end, not the sad part near the end. Go figure.

    Confession time: although I talk tough, this is one of the few books that has in fact seriously choked me up. Also Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco.

  15. Oh, I bawl all the time when I’m reading, so I shouldn’t add to this discussion. But I’m going to. 🙂

    Here are my “bawlers” that are unique to yours:
    GOOD NIGHT, MR. TOM, by Michelle Magorian; THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, by Sherman Alexie; the whole ANNE series, by L.M. Montgomery (Why did Matthew have to die?!?); most of the Harry Potter series; THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, by Kate DiCamillo; NATION, by Terry Pratchett; THE SECRET GARDEN and A LITTLE PRINCESS, by Frances Hodgson Burnett; MILKWEED, by Jerry Spinelli; TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee…I’d better stop, eh? Suffice it to say that I cry a lot. And mostly when I read YA fiction. Willa Cather novels get me, too, though. Especially MY ANTONIA.

    I’m going to be adding several of the books you listed to my To Read list, so thanks for those recommendations! I’m especially intrigued by your review of LIMBO. And I love TILL WE HAVE FACES! Definitely sobbed a bit while reading that one! Thank you so much for giving that amazing book to me.

    One last thing: I hope we’re going to see that Red Riding Hood movie that’s coming out. Are we? Are we? It looks almost as good as SEASON OF THE WITCH (Why does Nicholas Cage get away with having no accent when everybody else has one? He’s supposed to be an English crusader, for heaven’s sake!).

    ‘Nuff from me.

  16. THE TWILIGHT DILDO IS AWESOME!!! Ha ha ha ha!!! Oh my damn, how I laughed and laughed. (Recent tearjerking reads: A Thousand Splendid Suns and These Is My Words.)

  17. You can buy a Twilight thong with Edward’s face on the inside. Not kidding.

  18. Alex and Kullervo, I’ve never read The Bridge to Terabithia. If it made both of you cry, I guess I better.

    Kim, I almost put Anne and Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird on this list too, because heaven knows they’ve made me weep gushing tears. But since I’d just mentioned them a couple months ago in my post on favorite authors, I decided to go with some others. In general, I tend to get a little teary when I read, so there were plenty to choose from.

    I bet I’d like most of the other books on your list…though for some reason I just haven’t been able to get all that enthused about Willa Cather. I read My Antonia and remember being underwhelmed. However, I think I read it in high school and probably didn’t really understand it. Maybe I’ll give it another go on your recommendation.

    Finally, I am delighted that you loved Till We Have Faces! I thought you might. And YES: we are definitely going to the Red Riding Hood movie that’s coming out. It looks awful / brilliant. 🙂

    Leish, right?? I think I might have actually screamed a little from the sheer awesome horror of it all when I first saw it. Also, whenever you say “oh my damn” my heart leaps a little with joy.

  19. Kullervo and Leish, my friend once sent me a link of the most disturbing Twilight products of all time. They are SO CREEPY. The panties are included here. Aaaaaaaaaaah!

  20. Okay, just added another to the list: _The Chosen._ I wept openly while reading it on the plane. Awkward!

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