There have only been six books that have made me cry. The first was The
Return of the King when the Ring was finally destroyed. That was for relief, because for weeks I’d lived and breathed nothing but LotR (and every time I watch the movie, I start bawling at the Battle of Pelennor Fields because I know what’s coming—and I don’t stop until Justin gets tired of the credits music and turns it off.)
The second book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Aslan died, and the third was at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Reepicheep leaves. Both of those were because I’d grown extremely attached to those characters. Again, I still cry during the movies at that point (I remember going to watch Voyage with Justin at the movie theater—I managed to stop crying before we left the theater, but as soon as we stepped outside it started snowing, and I started right up again).
The fourth book I ever cried during was These High Green Hills, the Mitford book when Miss Sadie dies–because I loved Miss Sadie. The fifth was A
Thousand Tomorrows by Karen Kingsbury—because it’s about a girl with fibromyalgia and I’d just finished working at a camp for disabled kids whom I all adored (I know, it was one of those romance books I so often mutter about—don’t judge me, spec-fic readers!) 😉
The sixth was earlier this year, and it was a bit of a surprise. My friend Mirriam asked if I’d like to read a book she was currently writing, and because I’d read and loved some of her other work, I said yes. And so Monster began—a story about a scientist named Eva, and Mir, a mislabeled “non-human” in a research laboratory. It was amazing—deep, thoughtful, insightful, profound, beautiful, and saddening. It tackled a subject very close to my heart, and I convicted yet again to remember to write real, raw, passionate, profound prose. And yes, at the end, I cried.
So, out of the hundreds of books I’ve read over my lifetime, only six have made me cry. I don’t like it when stories make me cry. I kick and struggle against it, because—well, let’s face it. Only so many people can look good when they cry, and they’re all in movies. Most of us end up dripping snot on our sleeves or our spouse’s shirts. Plus, crying gives me a headache. I get those often enough without my emotions playing a part, thank you.
But the stories that make me cry are the ones that I come back to over and over again. I almost agree with Sally Sparrow’s (from Doctor Who) quote in Blink when asked why she likes to feel sad: “It’s like happy for deep people.” The stories that make me cry are the deep ones, the ones that always tug at my heart and come to mind when people ask about my favorite books. My copy of The Lord of the Rings is dog-eared. I can’t recall how many times I’ve re-read the Mitford novels, or A Thousand Tomorrows, and I finally bought my own hardback copy of The Chronicles of Narnia as a teen because my dad’s copies were falling apart. As soon as Monster is published, I’ll be snagging my print copy. These books make me do something I dislike every single time I read them, yet I love them.
Perhaps a more fitting quote would be this:
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.”
Of course they’re talking about Aslan—but the same thing could be said about books. Good, deep, profound, real books are not safe. They challenge you, they make you think, and even though you might not want to, they will pull you into loving about the characters, laughing and crying as things happen to them.
I’m not enough of an expert—and I doubt I’ll ever be—to really expand on why these books do this to me. The only thing that really stands out to me, beyond writing talent, is that each of these books touches on themes that resonate with me.
The Return of the King shows the defeat of evil. The Narnia books that I love touch on the hopefulness of death. A Thousand Tomorrows and the Mitford book shows a life that is treasured even when society says it shouldn’t necessarily be. And Monster talked about so many things near and dear that I can’t even begin to think of them all—sanctity of life, abuse of power…the list goes on.
That’s why I keep going back to these books, and why I’m constantly on the search for new ones like it—books that make me care deeply, that I’ll reach for when I need something to read. They aren’t safe, but they are beautiful. They make me think. They shove me outside my comfort zone, which is something I can always use more of. They make me stretch and grow, even though it feels uncomfortably like my belly stretching as my son grows.
And, despite my misgivings, it really is a good thing.