When I tucked in my son, Camden (age 9), the other night, I could tell something was wrong. His eyes looked everywhere but at mine, he wasn’t his usual chatty self, and his book was propped open to a page, though it was clear he was no longer reading it.
With a little motherly prodding, I soon discovered that the book he’d been reading had left him sad and a bit more emotional than he likes to be. This is the kid who prides himself on “never crying” when he gets hurt, and the fact that a book could create such an emotional response had him unsettled.
Without giving you the entire plot-line of the Warriors series, I’ll give you a little frame of reference. The Warriors is an (incredibly long) series about cats — their clan-life, their society, their struggle for survival in the wild. (I survived reading the first six books aloud with Camden, and then he had to take over from there — while I enjoyed reading with him, there’s only so much I can read about clan Gatherings and crowfood and cat battles.) Camden had come to a part of the series where the cats’ present home — The Forest — was being destroyed and they all had to move to a new location. The book did turn rather sappy, dwelling on fond memories of their forest home, drawing out long good-byes from the cats…enough to make any devoted tween-age reader sentimental.
Camden, who had experienced his own mixed bag of feelings when we moved to our new home three years ago, was drawn right in to the emotion. And it was bothering him.
“Has a book ever made you really, really sad, Mom?” he asked.
Oh my, yes!
I shared with him some of the many books that have made me cry over the years. Two of the most memorable were:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe — I read this book so many times and cried every single time I got to the chapter where Aslan dies. And then I cried even harder when he came back. When we read the Narnia series aloud to Camden a few years ago, I had to hand the book to Chad (my husband) for those chapters, knowing I wouldn’t be able to get through them tear-free.
Where the Red Fern Grows — This book I read only once, when I was about 11 or 12. But I sobbed — sobbed — at the end. It made such an impression on me; I can’t remember ever crying so hard over a book before or since. Granted, I was a young girl, and a dog-loving young girl at that, and it didn’t take much to push my emotional buttons.
Camden enjoyed hearing about my own reading-induced tears and appreciated knowing that he wasn’t the only one so affected by books. Then he asked me, “Did you still like those books, even though they made you cry?”
I guess he thought that, in an attempt to avoid sadness, I would immediately classify those books as: Avoid At All Costs.
But it’s quite the opposite. I wouldn’t have cried while reading those, or any, books unless I cared for the characters, unless I’d been drawn completely into the story world and felt fully invested in what was happening. So surprisingly — to Camden, at least — the books that made me cry were probably some of my favorites. Not because they made me cry. But rather, I only cried because I liked them so much.
In my old age (ha-ha), I now rarely cry when I read fiction. It still happens occasionally, but I’m more likely to be moved to tears when reading non-fiction — a well-crafted account of sacrifice, honor, or redemption. The principle still holds true, though: it’s the books where I am drawn in, captivated by characters and story alike, that touch my heart the most profoundly.
Has a book ever made you cry?
Katrina blogs at Callapidder Days, which she hosts the Spring Reading Thing, and the Fall into Reading Challenge, which will start this month.
Shannon (Muzbee Crazy) says
I remember having to read Where the Red Fern Grows in school and I do remember feeling really sad at the end. I have never read that book again though. You’re exactly right on the emotions a good book can bring out. If it wasn’t a great book we wouldn’t get so attached.
Little Women. I cried every time I read it, and I’m sure I read it hundreds of times.
When the kids were younger and my hormones were crazy, I cried at a lot of their picture books! I’m now reading Tears in the Dessert by Halima Bashir, her memoir about life in Darfur, and if I don’t cry, it will amaze me.
The Gang's All Here! says
Where the Red Fern Grows got me all the gazillion times I read it, in junior high and again when my sons read it. Little Women still gets me, book and movie versions. And Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers gets me every time. In fact, I try to read it at least once a year, as it is such a wonderful reminder of the Love of My Bridegroom. Finally, The Heavenly Man, Let’s Roll, and The Family Nobody Wanted (all non-fiction) make me cry.
Mommy Cracked says
Oh my word…I started reading The Lovely Bones right after my son was born and BAWLED all the way through it. I’m sure the combination of the storyline and post-partum horomones is what did me in.
Amy N. says
Hi, Katrina! I really related to this post and hope you don’t mind me “stealing” the idea and bloggina about it myself (all credit given to you, of course!)
Oh man. The Notebook. I lay in bed sobbing hysterically for about half an hour after I finished that one.
Also sweet picture books like Love You Forever.
I have read Safely Home by Randy Alcorn three times and cried every time. It’s one of my favorite books, and the emotional impact is one of the reasons I like it so well.
Jennifer (5 Minutes for Books) says
Katrina–thanks so much for letting me run this. As I told you, I think about it all the time now!
I posted my full response on my own blog today:
All Choked Up
I just finished reading “In Search of Eden” by Linda Nichols a week ago, and it made me cry at the end. It took me about a month to read it just because I was occupied with other things, but the characters and questions kept me all the way to the end. I don’t remember ever feeling this emotional over a novel. It was great! I’m planning to read more of Nichols’ stuff.
Oh my…I know I teared up in several spots with The Lord of the Rings, but the one I remember practically bawling over was Cyrano de Bergerac. I knew the basic story that the ugly guy wants the girl but can’t, so he enlists the help of his very attractive buddy, but the end! *still in awe* It’s such a beautiful story of TRUE love and sacrifice…. If I could ever act in a professional play, that would be the one I’d do.
So yeah, I can get emotional over books sometimes. I think that’s the only one that I’ve actually cried over (there may be another one I’ve blocked out. :D), but books definitely have an affect on me. 🙂
Books make me cry ALL THE TIME, especially kids books. I can’t make my way through Roxaboxen without sobbing, and my children do a hilarious imitation of me crying through the Charlotte Dies chapter of Charlott’es WEb.
Crying because something in a book has touched me is not an unusual occurrence for me at all, children’s books included. If you can read The Giving Tree or The Tale of Three Trees without crying, you’re a tougher woman than I am!
(BTW, Beck, I heard an NPR story recently about EB White. While recording an audio version of the book, White had to do 17 takes to get the ending recorded because *he* kept crying when Charlotte dies.)
A Thousand Splendid Suns made me cry more than any other book I can think of, though.
Katrina (Callapidder Days) says
I have loved reading everyone’s thoughts and replies! Charlotte’s Web — yep, that’s another one that got me when I read it to my son a couple years ago. I didn’t know that about EB White, though, Shauna. Thanks for sharing that.
Here is the NPR story if anyone is interested. I really enjoyed it.
Lots of books have made me cry! Red Fern did and I think I was older when I read it! I bawled at the end of Les Mis and was talking to the characters trying to get them to hurry to see Jean Valjean! Some of Sparks books have made me teary too….lots more I’m sure but those came to my mind right away.
Lori Drumm says
I also sobbed when I read Where the Red Fern Grows! I cannot wait for my daughter to read it.
Halfmoon girl says
Great post! Yes, many books have made me cry- Where the Red Fern grows was one of them for me as well. I get sad over the Aslan scene as well. I can hardly read Little Pilgrim’s Progress out loud to my kids- they always comment on how my voice sounds funny. All the books that bring up that emotion for me make up my favourites though.