Who doesn’t love a good cry? Many self-proclaimed bookworms will tell you: the more heart-shattering a story is, the better they will rate it online. It seems we are all just looking for a little too much heartbreak.
However, if you want to keep fueling your habit of reading books that will most likely make you cry, here is a list of five books that made me sob. Like full-on “ugly cry”. So maybe, one of these recommendations will be a right pick for you too.
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
First up, we have the 220-page novel Indian Horse by “one of the leading indigenous writers in North America”, Richard Wagamese. We meet the main character Saul Indian Horse, when he is in treatment for alcoholism and reflects on the tragedies he faced throughout his life in a 1960/70s Canada.
When Saul loses his family in a harsh winter, he remains alone and is placed in a “boarding school”. One of the exact institutions that his family tried to escape in the first place. In the residential school, Saul deals with cruelty, racism, and violence.
The only hope he finds lies in the discovery of his talent for ice hockey. He gives the sport his everything, determined to practice as much as he can, which eventually leads him to success. But even his newfound achievement cannot protect him from a world that is against him.
The reader gets the chance to learn about a dark chapter in Canada´s history, through the eyes of protagonist Saul. Wagamese writes his main character with so much care and heartache that you can only feel unbelievable anger at the cruelties he faces.
The novel keeps the reader engaged through constant twists. On display are the harsh realities of indigenous people in an intolerant Canada. If you think it cannot get any worse, you are most likely wrong.
This novel is extremely important and I highly recommend everyone to read it. It is a heart-shattering but powerful story, bitter but with many lessons to be learned.
I believe it is a must-read if you want to learn more about re-educational schools in Canada and the treatment of indigenous people, specifically, during the 1960s and 70s. Some might even argue that Indian Horse is a “quintessential Canadian novel”.
Please remember that this novel talks about many heavy topics such as Addiction, Colonisation, Child abuse, Death, Rape, Violence, and Racism, which may be triggering.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
If you are slightly interested in books and you spend some time on the internet, you have probably crossed paths with Madeline Miller’s “BookTook” sensation The Song of Achilles. Ancient Greece acts as the story’s backdrop, while the narrative follows Patroclus who is in exile at the Court of King Peleus. That is where he meets the King´s son Achilles.
After the boys slowly get to know each other, their friendship blossoms into a relationship of young love. Eventually, Achilles must meet his destiny and go to war. Patroclus decides to follow his friend. The novel takes the reader through years of the Trojan War while focusing on the young men´s relationship.
Off to a relatively slow start, it might take you a bit to get into the mythical retelling. However, before long the pace picks up and you will be immersed into the story beyond comparison.
We get to explore Achilles and Patroclus’ tender relationship elevated through Madeline Miller‘s beautiful writing. It is safe to say that reading this book is worth it for Miller´s writing alone. By the time the ending of the novel is near, you will have connected to the characters and the final chapters will literally rip your heart apart. Well, at least mine sure was shattered into pieces.
I read this book over a year ago and honestly, I still think about it a lot. You might want to consider reading The Song of Achilles if you are in need of a good cry.
I cannot really imagine anyone who has not been peer-pressured by the internet to read this novel yet anyway. But if you are one of those people, this is your sign, give in and read it now.
Content Warnings: Blood depictions, death, war, murder, physical violence.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This historical-fiction novel is set in 1939 and follows the two sisters Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac. From the start, it seems that both sisters are fundamentally different. Set in a World War II-torn France, Vianne has to let her husband go to war and accept the Germans invading her home. Her rebellious 18-year-old sister Isabelle simultaneously ends up joining the resistance and risking her life every day to save others.
Separated and not looking eye to eye in how they deal with the war, both sisters have to navigate their lives on their own terms until eventually, they can find each other again. The sisters discover that they are more similar in their resilience than they ever thought they could be.
Kristin Hannah tells the story of the durability and resilience of women during the war beautifully. She masters the writing and development of the sister´s relationship throughout the novel. It is a heart-wrenching story because of the young love both sisters experience and the realities of the Second World War in Nazi-occupied France.
But first and foremost it tears your heart apart because of the relationship Vianne and Isabelle share. The resistance these women have through all the devastating years that they endure is nothing less than inspiring.
The Nightingale is an exceptionally crafted story and one of my favourites by Kristin Hannah. I would especially recommend this novel if you like historical fiction about World War II. The novel is a haunting read that will most likely leave you breathless. It is a medium-paced story but for me, it was an absolute page-turner.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Rape, Torture, Anti-semitism, Holocaust, Violence, Murder, War.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is another “BookTok” sensation, which had to make it onto this list. It is just so good. To be honest, I was hesitant to read this book, mostly because of the title. I had no desire to read all about the “Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”, because really, what could be so good about a story about someone’s many husbands? As it turns out I was wrong in every aspect possible.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a heartfelt novel that dives deep into the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The book tells a substantially human story and follows the many ups and downs in life.
When movie icon Evelyn Hugo decides that she is finally ready to “tell all” about her glamorous and scandalous life in Hollywood, she has only one condition: to have the unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant tell her story.
Monique does not understand why Evelyn picks her to tell her life story. But feeling stuck in her stagnating life at the magazine, she decides that this will be her chance to kick off her career once and for all.
The short and poignant chapters allow Evelyn to take Monique through her life story. The novel starts in the 1950s when Evelyn’s career was just starting and it spans all the way through to the 80s when she decided to leave the show business.
That is, until now, when she is ready to talk. Evelyn’s life has one common hook: her (seven) husbands. Before long, secrets she kept quiet all her life started to be revealed bit by bit.
Taylor Jenkins Reid understands how to write a forceful, well-paced story that you cannot put down. Chapter by chapter, more and more crumbs of information build a path that brings the reader closer to understand the whole story of Evelyn´s life. Trying to understand how the movie legend’s experiences intersect with Monique´s average life, keeps you on the edge at all times.
One thing to take away from this book is that it is not at all about Evelyn´s seven husbands. If that is putting you off from reading it, as it did for me, try to not judge a book by its cover – or in this case, its title – and start reading it now!
Read Brig’s review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo here.
Content Warnings: Abusive relationship, alcohol, cheating, death, domestic abuse, sexism.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This might come as a surprise as every other book on this list is fictional and very much about tragic life stories. However, Michelle Obama´s memoir, which was published in 2018, definitely belongs on the list of books that made me cry.
It is a well-written and inspirational story about her life growing up on the South Side of Chicago, her working life as an executive, and the transition to becoming the First Lady of the United States. It might be a bit long and repetitive from time to time but overall, her memoir is well worth the read.
Michelle Obama describes her life authentically and does not shy away from portraying all her experiences, reaching from highs to lows. There is just something mesmerizing about an eloquently written memoir. Getting such a personal and intimate look into someone else´s life is valuable and inspiring. A plus is, that Obama’s life so far is unique and not relatable for many people, which makes the book that much more enthralling.
Obama’s memoir is heartwarming and moving, focusing on the demands of motherhood and the importance of family. I would highly recommend it. Listening to the audiobook might be a good option too, as she narrates it herself.
Trigger Warnings: Racism, Terminal cancer, Death of a friend, Gun violence & mass shootings discussed, Poverty themes
Feature Image Credit: Canva