Books you find completely devastating.



  • @Hermione, I feel you on Harry Potter. I cry pretty much all the way through Deathly Hallows. So many of my favorite characters died in that book.

    The Collector. It makes me furious and sick and so scared for Fred Clegg's next victim.

    The Handmaid's Tale. It's terrifying that there are people who seem determined to make that not a fiction.
  • Shake Hands With the Devil, by Romeo Dallaire (I mentioned it in the documentary thread). Heartbreaking in every way, not least of which are the parts where he talks about how they felt so confident that they were doing the right thing, finally making headway, making a difference. You know what's coming, and you feel so badly for the optimism that he keeps losing bit by bit till he has nothing left to lose.
  • nolakent said:

    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 the 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!  :)

  • I'm not sure WTF just happened ^^. I couldn't get my cursor outside of the quote box. Grr. Anyway, jesus, The art of racing in the rain?? Ugh. I had been out to AZ to see my friend who was in hospice due to liver failure. At the same time my best gf was dying from ovarian cancer. Well the ding dong in AZ gave me this book & when I say I fell apart on the plane...
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Call of the Wild had me depressed for at least a full week after completing them.
  • PeggyOlson,

    I'm so glad you mentioned The Art of Racing in the Rain.  One of my daughters and her husband had given me the book several years ago.  I'd read the first chapter and maybe the second and then put it aside.  Maybe it was because one of my dogs was getting on in years and I just didn't want to think about her leaving us.  She already had early stage kidney failure, but it was stable at that time.

    Well, quite recently, Lucy's kidney disease got much worse.  We tried prescription food, meds to settle her tummy, appetite stimulants and nothing helped.  One Valentine's Day morning, my husband and I took Lucy in so that the vet could release her from this life.  I think she was ready to go.  Reading about Enzo knowing that he'd done what he needed to as a dog and he could let go were very healing.  

    Oh. and the Twins:  they can go right up there with the main characters in Gone Girl in being thoroughly despicable.
  • CourtneyA said:
    Shake Hands With the Devil, by Romeo Dallaire (I mentioned it in the documentary thread). Heartbreaking in every way, not least of which are the parts where he talks about how they felt so confident that they were doing the right thing, finally making headway, making a difference. You know what's coming, and you feel so badly for the optimism that he keeps losing bit by bit till he has nothing left to lose.
    You read my mind. That book is shattering, yet I thought it was so worth reading.

    A good friend gave me Connie Willis' Doomsday Book. I've read it and found it heartbreaking, yet with moments of grace.

    One book that I read recently (as background for a trip to Scotland) is The Highland Clearances by John Prebble. It's a history of the process of 'clearing' the Highlands of Scotland for the wool industry that began after the defeat of Bonny Prince Charlie,and continued for roughly 40-50 years.  It completely exploded any romantic notions that I might have had about Scottish history, and it is completely heartbreaking.
  • Bastard Out of Carolina knocked me flat. But nothing comes close to"Plays Well With Others " by Alan Gurganus. It's about when he lived in New York in the early 80's at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. He gave an author talk here last night and I was able to tell him how that book has stayed with me for years and years.
  • David Carr's The Night of the Gun. I read it after he died, which probably added to the "run over by a car" feeling. 
  • 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.
    I love all Connie Willis and Doomsday Book is difficult for me.  However, Passage is the one that got me so bad I haven't reread it.
  • rainwood said:
    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.
    yes, to this
  • Stephen King's Pet Sematary is one of the very few books of his that I won't re-read. Especially now I'm pregnant!! That book has a shockingly good grasp on the visceral nature of grief. And that the whole message of the book is sometimes dead is better is just so, so bleak. 
  • Bridge to Terabithia definitely hit me hard.  I haven't read it since I read it twice in a week in school (so I'd remember it long enough for the test), and I don't think I could read it again, frankly.

    The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien's first novel - pained me; I didn't cry, but I haven't read it since, and yet I still find it hard to think about, even though I remember it fairly frequently for a book I didn't like.  

    Harry Potter, of course - I cry while reading most of them, honestly.  Hasn't stopped me from reading them each twenty or thirty times, but still.

    I have very carefully erased Elie Wiesel's Night from my memory.  It no longer exists, so far as I'm concerned.  I might have had an easier time with it if my teacher at the time hadn't been a Holocaust groupie (she taught Holocaust Literature in a freaking high school, and forced all Gifted 10th graders to do a Holocaust unit in Gifted English), and every single day was a new book, poem, account or movie.  I complained that I was having nightmares about being in a concentration camp with my family and she just said, "Oh, I'm sorry," and took down Schindler's List and put it in the DVD player.  I still resent her.  And that sodding unit.

    But the book that I give the crown of full-on-ugly-cry to is Rilla of Ingleside.  Set during WWI, a sister left behind in Canada while her brothers go off to fight in the's actually the last book of the Anne of Green Gables series, don't know who here has read it?  And every time I read it I just sob.  There are gorgeous parts, thrilling parts, parts where I can't help but laugh out loud...but it definitely devastates me, every time I read it.
  • The Lie, by Helen Dunmore - just came out last year.  Not devastated in a sobbing way - but I just found it so gripping and tension filled (despite little actually happening - hard to explain).  I came on here today to start a thread on it, and I might still.  It hasn't gotten much play, and some criticisms of the book complain of the slow pace.  I just found it harrowing throughout.  
  • Atonement. 

    Fucking Briony. 

    Seriously, I know a bunch of people who, when I tell them about my undying love for Atonement, pull a face and say "but it's so boring!"

    NO IT ISN'T, aside from the fact that it's a masterclass in narrative deconstruction it's also fucking heartbreaking and depressing and bleak. And then the movie came along and I had to watch James McAvoy die in that dank basement surrounded by drunks dreaming of a better life in a seaside cottage...

    Read it, please, people, and then watch the film. 
  • Oh, and if we're going to talk Holocaust lit (Sorry, @carlatheviking), you have to remember The Diary of Anne Frank. Whenever I reach the final page, my heart just stops. But there's so much wisdom there that I have to reread it about once a year.
    That one hurts WAY less than Night.  I've only read it once though.  Some things...ugh.  I read a quote by a Holocaust survivor recently - "Forgive.  But don't forget."  So these books serve a purpose and we need to read them, but I think once will do for me.
  • You know, I don't think I've ever read did I miss that?
    Maybe it wasn't required reading in your county?  It was in mine...couldn't blame that one on the teacher.
  • Zirza said:

    God, Atonement is just crushing.
  • Hmm, if we're just talking straight up tears, I listened to the audiobook of Marley & Me as read by the author and could barely park my car at the end because of the tears. 
  • the ones where they all die at the end?
  • edited April 2015
    Any of Hosseinis books. They leave me in tears and I cannot wait for the next one.
    Art of racing.. I should have been devastated by it but I was bothered and distracted by some of the impossibilities of the trip to the cemetery. I am born and raised Seattle and lived 2 blocks from the cemetery. I was distracted by the implausibilities.
  • edited May 2015
    I taught Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns this semester -- it was the last book my class and I read -- and afterwards I felt like my class should have come with a warning. God, that ending...

  • I'll vote for Geoff Ryman's Was, the "true" story of the Wizard of Oz combined with the story of Judy Garland's early life and the that of Jonathan, an LA actor dying of AIDS who travels to Kansas to seek out Dorothy's home along with Bill, his psychologist who worked with Doroty Gael in a nursing home in the fifties.   It was published in 1992, pretty much the peak of the AIDS crisis, and perhaps that along its very sad story is what led to its being particularly devastating for me.
  • boweryboy said:

    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.

    oh's been many years since that one and Ive never forgotten the frog-shaped stain.

  • 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.
    I did the same when reading that book too. Fortunately for me I was at home. 
  • 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.
    I'm with you on this one. While I loved it, damn it made me cry, on the train heading home. 
  • Agree with several of the mentions here - Time Traveler's Wife - such an emotional read!!  Most of the Kalid Houssini's (Kite Runner and And The Mountains Echoed were my favorites.  A Thousand Splendid Suns was just too much awful, wouldn't read it again).

    I'll add We Were The Mulvaney's by Joyce Carol Oates - just tragic, unfair, sad sad sad.  It was beautifully written but left me so wiped out.  

    Night - Ugh!!  I had to read that in 8th or 9th grade.  Just too much for my brain at that time and I'm scarred forever.  My parents read it for themselves and agreed.  
    James Patterson's Kiss the Girls - the violent imagery was just too much for me - could not get those nightmares out of my head for too long. I decided I didn't want to read anything else from someone whose mind could go there.  And, even though I think he's written a lot of very different books since then, I never have read Patterson again.

  • I will have to read Night.  This my first time hearing about it and feel that I need to read it.
  • Teddy said:
    The Book Thief kills me ... and so does The Reader. 
    I loved The Book Thief as well.
    Other books that I found engrossing were Sebastian Junger's "WAR," as well as a pictorial by Ansel Adams on the Japanese Concentration Camps "Manzanar."
    Also are the fine books of the late Kent Haruf (Plainsong), as well as Willa Cather's "My Antonia."  Wow, that one still resonates today.  
    More recently, I thoroughly loved "The God of War," by Marisa Silver.
  • @SirLouie, I wrote my college thesis on Willa Cather. O Pioneers! is my favorite.
    I loved Willa Cather.
    Also loved the recently departed Kent Haruf for many of the same reasons. He too captured life on the plains in the modern day. Quite wonderful. 
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