8 Books That Will Break Your Heart From Page One
There is no greater release than crying your heart out at a book. A book that makes you cry is a book that you've bonded with, a book that has reached all the way into your insides and found your most secret places. Sometimes crying can feel really, really good, and that's especially true when it's because of a great book.
I'm the first to admit that I'm easy to tears when it comes to reading. I can't count the number of times I've been sobbing openly in public about something that happened in a book. Even things that I know are coming (like, every death in Harry Potter) will hit me right in the gut. But sometimes it's not just death that breaks your heart; life can be pretty devastating, too.
From true stories of unbearable hardship to fictions that will swallow you whole, this list is full of books that will have you reaching for your tissue box right from the start. I'll admit it, some of these books are really rough to get through because their material is so intense. But, even the hardest stories on here will stick with you in the most important of ways.
1. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Right at the beginning of this book, Ted discovers a tumor on his dog and best friend, Lily. So right away you know this is going to be a tear-jerker. As Ted confronts Lily's sickness, what emerges is a special, heart-wrenching story about the nature of companionship.
2. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
When a tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons, but she miraculously survived. In this memoir, Daraniyagala recounts the horrifying tragedy and the long journey following. A stunningly beautiful book about the nature of loss, Wave is one everybody needs to read.
3. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life in five years. In this memoir, she tackles the question of why. As she explores their deaths, she comes to realize that these men — all young, black men — died because of who they were and where they were from.
4. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
When I say this book will break your heart, I don't mean it in a sappy way. I mean it in a "this-book-will ram-through-you-with-an-ax" kind of way. In Haiti to visit her family, a Haitian-American woman is ripped from her car and kidnapped. When her father refuses to pay the ransom, she is forced to live out a truly horrifying nightmare. Trigger warning: rape, gang rape.
5. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Set in Kerala, India, this is the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel and their childhood in the late '60s. From their mother's flight from an abusive marriage to the incident that causes Estha to stop talking, the twists of their life and the brilliant way Roy has pieced them together will make you ache with love.
6. The Last Dog on Earth by Daniel Ehrenhaft
I had to read this for a book club a long time ago, and I was sobbing for days. In this dystopia novel, an epidemic turns dogs deadly violent. But for 14-year-old Logan, his dog Jack is the only creature on Earth he can stand. As he and Jack run away, the disease nipping at their heels, you'll be swept in so much adventure and so many emotions you won't know what to do with yourself.
7. Trumpet by Jackie Kay
Loosely inspired by the life of Billy Tipton, this book begins with the death of Joss Moody, a renowned trumpet player. Upon his death, it's revealed that Joss, who identified and presented as a man, secretly had female anatomy. Told from varying points of view, from Joss's wife to the coroner who mislabels Joss as female and reveals his secret, this book is a dizzying look into the complexities of the trans experience.
8. Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam
Don't get me wrong: there are plenty of vibrant, splendid moments of hope in this book. But there are also moments that will crush you on every level possible. Bright Lines follows family during a tumultuous summer in Brooklyn and on a harrowing trip to their homeland in Bangladesh. This beautiful book is filled with so much loss and longing that you'll feel your skin tingle.