Wednesday, September 12, 2018

5 Books That Ripped My Heart Out (But I Can't Help Loving)

One of the most gorgeous things about reading is the emotional investment you put into each book. Stories and characters easily touch us with truths, pain, and beauty that is sometimes harder to grasp in reality. And this is why humanity loves stories.

Sometimes, though, the truths that fiction conveys to us hit us right where it hurts the most. Here is a list of my top 5 books that ripped my heart out, but I can't help loving anyway.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
It is impossible not to become completely attached to the characters of Guernsey, both in the present story line of Juliet's blossoming friendship with the Society shortly after WWII and their recounting of the German occupation and Blitz during the war. This is one of my favorite books, beautiful and delightful, a funny, feel-good read, with enough weight and substance it clings to you. And that substance is, unfortunately, the bit that ripped my heart out. While tears are unavoidable, it's part of what makes this book so beautifully magnificent.

If you have not yet read this critically-acclaimed masterpiece, you must. It paints the story of a young German girl and her adoptive family in 1939 as they watch their country sink deeper and deeper into the clutches of the Nazi party. While her country is closing in around her and neighbors are divided by their extremist political parties, Liesel's world is opened by the books she reads -and steals. This is a beautiful story that examines the tension and terror of the time from breathtaking angles -from Liesel's telling stories to make their bleak world a little brighter, to her best friend Rudy who idolizes Jessie Owens, to her adoptive father Hans struggling to stand firm in is own beliefs without endangering his family, to her Jewish friend Max hiding in the basement who fantasizes about pummeling Hitler in a boxing ring. Most beautiful of all, I think, is Zusak's choice of narrator in Death, his poetic descriptions, his observations from outside humanity, and his descriptions of the precious souls he carries in his arms when their times come.

This bitter-sweet middle grade novel follows Cedar in the summer after losing her father and brother, as she and what remains of her family fix up a new summer home. Here she discovers Summerlost, an outdoor Shakespearean theater (based off the real-life Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, UT), a place where she finally begins to feel happy again. It's also where she meets Leo, a boy obsessed with Summerlost's most famous actress, who died tragically young. As the two become fast friends, they begin to investigate the famous woman's death -was it really innocent? or was it murder?- giving Cedar a unique look at others who have survived the grief of losing a loved one. This is a beautiful book, raw and realistic in its dealings with loss and grief and the process of understanding and healing from both.

This non-fiction collection of letters between Helene Hanff and her English booksellers-turned-penpals shares many of the same fantastic qualities and attributes as Guernsey (so much so, I actually wonder how much it influenced Shaffer and Barrows in their writing). Helene's sharp wit and zealous love for books, books, books makes her an instant kindred spirit to any true reader, including dry-humored Frank, her main correspondent, as over 30 years of exchanging letters they develop a unique, close friendship -one book lover's soul to another- even separated by an ocean.

This is the book that inspired the list. I fell head over heels in love with its predecessor, Wolf by Wolf, for it's amazing characterization, depth, story, gorgeous writing, and giving me a character in Yael to whom I could relate in so many ways. While Blood for Blood shares many of these qualities, the ending also ripped my heart out. Ripped my heart out, put it through a shredder, raked through the pieces, and I still haven't gotten them all back into place. I related with Yael so much in this series that, when it came to describing her grief and her loss, I felt the ache of it because it was a reflection of my own. Through most of the series this was almost comforting, to relate to her so much on many different levels, but the ending simply hit too close to home. As much as I love this series, I honestly do not know that I will ever be able to read it again. This doesn't mean I don't recommend it; it is such an amazing story with beautiful, gorgeous, and human characters that I adore. I think everyone in the world should read it, simply consider this a trigger warning for grief.

Your turn:
What beautiful books cut to your soul
and ripped your heart out?

No comments:

Post a Comment