The Novels That Tore My Heart Out and Left Me for Dead #Books #BookLovers


Novels That Tore My Heart Out & Left Me For Dead

Photo Credit: StockSnap

Here are the top five novels that ripped my heart out and left me soaking in a puddle of tears.

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read the classic novels, “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables,” shame on you, and don’t read items 1 and 2, because they contain spoilers. I won’t ruin items 3-5.

1. “Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott. Why does Beth March have to die? It seems like it’s only a plot point that moves her sister Jo’s story forward. And it rips out the hearts of readers. Anyone know the Alcott back-story? I’d love to hear it from you.

2. “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery. When Matthew dies of a heart attack after learning his bank has failed, I lost my mind with grief. Anne Shirley can’t absorb the news. “Mrs. Lynde, you don’t think—you can’t think Matthew is—is—” and she can’t finish. It’s a wonder the page is still legible, after the tears flooded my face and, on many a rereading, drenched the page.

3. “The Book Thief,” by Markus Zusak. This book was popular in reading clubs for two years after it debuted in 2007. It’s about a German family during World War II, the Memingers, who get deep into trouble while trying to hide a Jewish friend. The chapters alternate between Liesel Meminger’s perspective and the point of view of the Grim Reaper, who tells us which victims he’s coming for next. It’s terrifying, tragic and left me all weepy and weak-kneed, as good drama tends to do.

4. “My Mother’s Chamomile,” by Susie Finkbeiner. This book hasn’t won awards or become a bestseller, but it left a crater in my heart. It’s about a third-generation mortician and her family as they prepare the bodies of folks in their small town for burial. They comfort their clients, but they are outcasts because of their odd profession. When they experience the slow and painful death of one of their own, the village realizes the family is precious to them, and they rally to help bring comfort during the loved one’s last days. I can’t say enough about how real the characters felt to me. I consider them members of my own family. And it broke my heart to see their suffering.

5.  “The Sandpiper,” by Susan Brace Lovell. This also isn’t a bestseller, but it’s really good. It’s about a family’s struggle through addiction, infertility, death and loneliness. The protagonists are sisters Jamie and Kate, who must learn to help each other after years of resentment and alienation. The third main character is their family cottage, The Sandpiper, nestled among the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. During the hours it took me to read this book, my heart came unglued.

Your turn. What novels have ripped your heart out and left you weepy?

Rachel E. Watson blogs on life, faith, mental health, music and literature at She also writes poetry, short fiction and essays, and has been a journalist almost 10 years. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Thanks a lot Rachel, we loved having you take over the Blondewritemore blog! Drop by the offices again soon 🙂


Posted by

I am a blonde writer of romantic comedy fiction.

57 thoughts on “The Novels That Tore My Heart Out and Left Me for Dead #Books #BookLovers

  1. I hate to admit that I’ve not read any of those novels, but know that my mother really loved “Little Women”.
    My favourite, most moving novels are “The Snow Child” — Eowyn Ivey, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” — Khaled Hosseini, “Bird Song” — Sebastian Faulks, “My Sister’s Keeper” — Jodi Picoult, “Schindler’s List” — Thomas Keneally.

    1. Ooh, “My Sister’s Keeper” and anything by Khaled Hosseini — definite tear-jerkers! Thanks for mentioning the others. Would you believe I haven’t read “Schindler’s List”?

      1. “Schindler’s List” is galling but well worth reading, because ultimately what you remember after finishing the novel is the humanity that shines through all that inhumanity, like a flame that refuses to die.

      2. A difficult question. I read the book first, but the film followed the story quite faithfully and the casting was superb. Both the book and the film were epic in scale, but the detail in the book far greater. I’m not sure what my answer to your question would be if I’d seen the film first.

      3. I find that happens to me, too. Whichever medium I experience a story in first–whether book or film–colors how I perceive the other. Plus, they’re so different. Like you said, books offer far more detail. Films are more about the visual and audio methods of storytelling.

      1. “The Snow Child” has everything. Lyrical writing. An amazing sense of place, as the author lives in Alaska. Historically interesting. The epic size of the landscape, in contrast with the daily minutiae of human survival. And the inexplicable magic of the snow child herself. The characterisation is incredible. I smiled, cried, held my breath, and found myself spellbound by this novel.

  2. I heard “The Book Thief” was fabulous. I guess I really need to read it now. Because I read mainly crime I don’t have a book to add to your list. The only novel that made me bawl like a baby was my critique partner’s, and it’s not out. Yet. When it’s released, however, I’ll be sure to let you know… as well as everyone else in the world. 🙂

  3. Wonderful post. Something to chew on today.
    I’ve bawled over plenty of books but can’t think of one just now–may be too early in the morning.
    Have read one to three, and now am interested in four and five. 🙂

      1. I don’t read much book that makes me cry, because I am a crier, lol. But I did cry in:
        * Blue sun, yellow sky (I cried a lot – Great book).
        * The Only City Left (I cried when someone died there – Loved this book so much).
        * Allegiant – I cried so much, lol.
        * fear no more.
        A wonderful story is:
        * Throne of Glass (tons of feels).
        * City of Bones.
        * The Fray Saga.

      2. Ooh, I’m intrigued by the title “Blue Sun, Yellow Sky,” and instantly hooked when I read the description. Can’t wait to read it, and I’ll have to check out the others, too! Thanks, Galit!

    1. Thanks Candice! That’s very encouraging. Glad you liked the list and hope you’ll read the books that interested you, if you haven’t read some of them yet. Any other reading suggestions for me? 🙂

      1. You are most welcome! On novels, I can’t think of any that have left me weepy, if that gut slugged me they eventually helped me to stand up right again and walk away with a satisfied limp afterward. “Wild Seed” by Octavia E. Butler, fell in love with a character only for them to sift through my fingers…sigh. Walter Mosely’s “47”. And lastly, “The Stolen Child” by Keith Donohue. 🙂 I had to think about it for a minute.

      2. “A satisfied limp” — I like that a lot. I guess I should clarify that the books in my list did have satisfying endings despite being sad. Thanks for the reading suggestions. I’m adding them to my Goodreads shelf. 🙂

  4. I remember crying, puffy red eyes while eading Of Mice and Men … and then a deliverymaan knocks on the door.

  5. Thanks for including My Mother’s Chamomile on this list, Rachel! Wow. What an honor. Truly.

    It takes a lot to make me cry (I’m an emotion stuffer). But two books that got to me were The One and Only Ivan (such a tender book) and Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. I love that Wendell Berry.

    1. Thanks for commenting Susie! 🙂 I am definitely adding those books to my list if they made YOU cry! I haven’t read Wendell Berry but I’ve been told by multiple friends that I need to. Coming right up!

  6. I loved Little Women but was simply inconsolable when Beth died – each time I re-read it I’d relive that emotion even before I got to that bit! Great points and I need to check out My Mother’s Chamomile – the most recent was with The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes which I read when I had flu so extra susceptible – was sobbing my heart out in ratty jammies when the doorbell rang – the poor postman was seriously scared!

  7. I’m 100% with you regarding “My Mother’s Chamomile!” I became so enraptured throughout that book that I immediately read it a second time. I have never done that before! Susie Finkbeiner is a fabulous author who reveals the deepest thoughts and feelings. Her first book, “Paint Chips,” was another book that will stay with me forever. I can’t wait for “A Cup of Dust!” Next for me is to head to Amazon to purchase a copy of “The Sanpiper.” What else could a Michigan girl do?

  8. Great post. I haven’t read any of the aforementioned books, but they do sound interesting. I find it’s little bits in certain books that tug at my heartstrings. I don’t think (or i can’t remember) that I have read a book that has completely torn out my heart. Maybe I’m not reading the right books….

  9. Great post title there! I haven’t read the mentioned books *blushes*. I usually don’t read books that would tear my heart out, but certain scenes in a book will. Like some of the Redwall series, The Lost Years of Merlin, and the well-known Narnia and Lord of the Rings.

  10. I don’t have time to list five tearful novels, but I remember one especially poignant minor character. I can’t recall for certain what book I saw him in, but he’s possibly from Dan Cushman’s “Stay Away, Joe.”

    “She’ll-Come-Back-Pretty-Soon” is an American Indian in a small, dusty Western town. Every morning he sits by the road and waits for his pretty young wife to return from a trip to the city. He waits there all day, but she never comes. At dusk, he goes home, saying, “She’ll come back pretty soon.” He’s been doing this for twenty years.

    1. Wow. Just wow. Having powerful flashbacks to the works of Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich. They are Native American authors, which, sadly, is kind of a rare thing. The NA community as a whole is trapped in cycles of poverty, alcoholism, Diabetes and abuse. Guess who’s (mostly) responsible? The U.S. Government. Personal responsibility a still applies. But it was explained to me by NA acquaintances/friends in Michigan and South Dakota that NA tribes are basically stuck in the anger stage of grief. For about 400 years. For losing sole inhabitance in and friendship with their lands.

      So … The guy sitting on the porch waiting for his (probably angry) wife … Makes ya wonder, doesn’t it? Even if it’s not a NA story. Grief is universal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s