15 Heartbreaking Opening Lines From Books
Some books have you laughing by the first sentence, others immediately grab your attention with action and adventure, and others intrigue you with a mystery on page one. Then there are those other kinds of books, the ones that have you immediately reaching for the tissues because they start off with some of the most heartbreaking opening lines from books. There's nothing like those first few tearful words to draw you in, am I right?
The first time a book made me cry was when I was around 10 or 11. I had stayed up all night to finish S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders , and when I got to the end and found it to be not nearly as happy as I had hoped, I began bawling. I cried for Johnny's tragic end and Dally's final choice, but I also cried for Ponyboy, whose life had just been changed forever. I felt angry and betrayed, like the book had lied to me and lead me to this heartbreak without warning. I immediately returned to the first page of the book, and reread the first line — which was also the book's last line — and realized that writing this story was Ponyboy's way of getting over the tragedies he had just gone through. It made those first few words, "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home," so much more devastating in the light of the entire story.
From then on, I paid a lot more attention to the first words in books to see if I'd end up crying between pages, and some books make it easier to tell than others by putting the sadness on page one. Break out the tissues, because you're going to need them close by when reading these 15 of the most heartbreaking opening lines from books. Sometimes, you just need a good cry, and these can certainly help with that.
1. “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
2. "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
— Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
3. "They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here."
— Toni Morrison, Paradise
4. "Once upon a time, in a far off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones."
— Roxane Gay, An Untamed State
5. "Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.”
— Albert Camus, The Stranger
6. “In 1692 the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft.”
— Stacy Schiff, The Witches: Salem 1692
7. "This is the saddest story I have ever heard."
— Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
8. "Ira had been divorced six months and still couldn't get his wedding ring off."
— Lorrie Moore, Bark
9. "Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death."
— John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
10. "It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. Its eyes were closed."
— Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
11. "A celestial light appeared to Barrett Meeks in the sky over Central Park, four days after Barrett had been mauled, once again, by love."
— Michael Cunningham, The Snow Queen
12. "When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant — a combined gardener and cook — had seen in at least ten years."
— William Faulkner, A Rose for Emily
13."I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I'm old, and you said, I don't think you're old."
— Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
14. "The funeral is supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends. But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church's east corner is crowded."
— Jessie Burton, T he Miniaturist
15. “This morning Rino telephoned. I thought he wanted money again and I was ready to say no. But that was not the reason for the phone call: his mother was gone.”
— Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend