Books you find completely devastating.

So we've done books you love and books you hate and books you want to read over and over. What are the books you find so completely devastating you don't want to get out of bed for a week afterwards?

Mine is Connie Willis' Doomsday Book. I've read it twice and would read it again in a heartbeat but I don't expect to be happy when I'm done.
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Comments

  • @cognitivedissonance ; I love Connie Willis. I read Doomsday Book years ago and enjoyed it. It is sad but I don't remember being devastated by it. For me it would probably be Edith Wharton's House of Mirth. I walked around with a profound sadness for days after reading that.
  • Not sure if it counts becasue ultimately I think it was a positive book, but Five People You Meet in Heaven made me full on ugly cry on an airplane. I scared the flight attendant and everything.
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Frightened me to the bone that a woman's place in society can be so precarious. Events in the decades since I've read it have not made that fear dissipate at all.
  • The Red Tent, same reason as @rainwood's for The Handmaid's Tale (which I've never read, but will now.) A Thousand Splendid Suns for the same reason. When she left her daughter at the orphanage I had a full-on ugly cry. Beach Music by somebody, about the Holocaust. Just emotionally shattering.
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Love it but I tear up every time.
  • The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini. This one had me sobbing in an airplane.

    Oh - and A Thousand Splendid Sons - also Khaled Hosseini.

  • God, The Kite Runner for me too. That pivotal but horrifying scene in the book had me sobbing.
  • Mother Night by Vonnegut
  • Never Let Me Go. It was the day after Christmas, I had received a Kindle from my parents and I downloaded a few books and I was excited to start powering through them. I finish Never Let Me Go that morning and I just set my Kindle aside and say "No reading for a while".

    I felt so gutted, and even watching the trailer for the sub par movie adaptation made me cry.
  • Five Days at Memorial, by Sheri Fink. It's about the crisis faced by Memorial Hospital and its patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It holds my record by far for the longest time taken to finish a book because I had to put it down numerous times, for weeks at a time. Absolutely riveting and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves non-fiction, but hands down the most upsetting and disturbing book I've ever read.
  • Oh, yes - The Kite Runner.  A guy at the train stop gave it to me and said, "this is a really good book, but I'll never read it again".  I was like, what?  But after reading it I get what he meant.  Also Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane was very depressing for me. 
  • A Mighty Heart by Marianne Pearl. Danny's execution was terrible enough, but at the end, she describes some of the cards and gifts people sent her after her son was born. Oh my god. She got a quilt made by a woman in Texas who felt compelled to make it so Marianne and her baby could wrap up in it and think of all the people unknown to them who cared and wished them well. So moving. I'm tearing up just thinking about it.

    And The Bridge to Terabithia. I read it with my son when he had it in school. We're talking sobbing. Jesus.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  
    Granted, I was pregnant when I read it, but I was haunted while I read and for months after with nightmares. 


  • Oh god, yes, The Road was unremittingly bleak.
  • Never Let Me Go. It was the day after Christmas, I had received a Kindle from my parents and I downloaded a few books and I was excited to start powering through them. I finish Never Let Me Go that morning and I just set my Kindle aside and say "No reading for a while".

    I felt so gutted, and even watching the trailer for the sub par movie adaptation made me cry.
    I totally agree with that!

    Another one for me was Terry Pratchett's Nation. It came out in the same year as he had his embuggerance diagnosis and even though he was writing it before that, I was quite shaken by the rage in it.
  • Postcards by Annie Proulx. 

    Got that was depressing and the ending left me shattered. I was traveling at the time and it was a bit too real.
  • Another vote for Bridge to Terabithia.
  • edited March 2015
    Timoleon Vieta Come Home by Dan Rhodes devastated me completely.   It's about a lonely old gay man who has to choose between his dog Timoleon Vieta or his handsome new Bosnian lover.  He chooses his lover and abandons Timoleon in the middle of Rome.  The novel follows Timoleon as he makes his way home and all the people whose lives he comes in contact with.  I finished reading it on a plane ride home and I was sobbing so much the flight attendant gave me a free cocktail.
  • The Time Travelers Wife hit me pretty hard. I think I read it during a midwestern winter to boot. There was a week or so I was pretty depressed after that one.
  • Yes to Bridge to Terebithia.

    And here's a confession. I was reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the bus on the way home from work. And as Dumbledore gave his tribute to Cedric Diggory, I absolutely sobbed. Great heaving sobs. In public. Reading a book technically written for children.
  • "The Buddha in the Attic" by Julie Otsuka.

    It's about Japanese picture brides; their arrival and attempts to adjust to life in the U.S., and what was left behind with the disappearance of the families into the internment camps.  Heartbreaking!

  • As a high school student, I haven't read a single book that is not devastating. That being said, the worst have been Lord of the Flies, Night, by Elie Weisel, Animal Farm, A Lesson Before Dying, and The Stranger. For me, fiction is supposed to be an escape into a fascinating new world or time period, not a terrifying analysis or allegory of the world we live in.
  • Agree with The Road. That book haunted me. 

    The Book Thief was also very sad. And Stones From The River was another rough read for me. 
  • Paula by Isabel Allende and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. They have some similar themes, and I read them *years* apart, but they both had me BAWLING. I thought they were both beautifully written, but devastatingly sad.

    I started Never Let Me Go, but it never clicked with me, but maybe I'll give it another try. (Not right now, though. I don't think I can read something that heavy at the moment.)
  • edited March 2015
    Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry. I was on a return flight from a business trip when I read about what happens to Augustus McCrae .  The flight attendant had to ask me if I was okay, because the tears were streaming silently down my face.

    Of course, this book also figures in Books That Actually Made Me Laugh Out Loud. On the outbound flight of that same business trip, everyone around me was staring as I giggled and snorted about the blue pigs.


  • edited March 2015

    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is another devastating novel for me. So good but so sad and kind of messed up to boot.

  • Chucko78 said:
    The Time Travelers Wife hit me pretty hard. I think I read it during a midwestern winter to boot. There was a week or so I was pretty depressed after that one.
    Me too - I never saw the movie, the actors they chose were just AWFUL choices, and I heard it was pretty bad. But the book was amazing.
  • The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini. This one had me sobbing in an airplane.

    Oh - and A Thousand Splendid Sons - also Khaled Hosseini.

    I agree with The Kite Runner.  And speaking of sobbing in an airplane, I did that at the end of The Lovely Bones.  I literally had tears dripping down my chin, was so embarrassing! 
    @Emmy ; I haven't been able to make myself read Five Days at Memorial yet, having lived through Katrina and my office being directly across the street from the hospital, but I did read One Dead In Attic by Chris Rose.
    Oh, another that absolutely killed me was The Art Of Racing In The Rain (by Garth Stein), which was told from a dog's perspective.  I am literally tearing up now thinking about it.  Just devastating.  Now excuse me while I leave work early to run home to hug my fur-babies!  :)
  • Mother Night by Vonnegut
    "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be" 

    I love that book.   
  • The Book Thief kills me ... and so does The Reader. 
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