Reading through tears

Last night I was reading a thread on the Fametracker forums about literary moments that make you cry. Of course there were the usual suspects – To Kill a Mockingbird, Anne of Green Gables (and later books in the series), Harry Potter, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Lord of the Rings, Little Women, Bridge to Terabithia, Charlotte’s Web. A few more recent additions were The Time Traveler’s Wife (which also had me in tears) and The Lovely Bones (which I read last week to see if it would be appropriate for my book club but did not make me cry).

One of mine that wasn’t mentioned is Stone Fox. If you can make it through the end of that book without crying, well, you’re much colder-hearted than I. I made my mom read it, and she took it to the beach and sat in her chair in the sun and bawled her eyes out. It’s one of our favorite sad books.

One that was mentioned fairly frequently was Possession. I admit I have been waiting for a reason to use this quote, so I am jumping at the opportunity.

“There are things which happen and leave no discernable trace, are not spoken of or written of, though it would be very wrong to say that subsequent events go on indifferently, all the same, as though such things had never been.

Two people met, on a hot May day, and never later mentioned their meeting. This is how it was.”

It’s been a while since I read Possession. It’s one of those books that’s better when you really have time to dig into it. I have enjoyed it both times I read it, but I really loved it the second time, because I wasn’t just trying to get through it to be done with it and to see what happens. I reveled in the poetry instead of skimming it. I had done some research and the many literary references were much clearer. (By the way, someone should really do an annotated Possession. That would be fantastic.) It’s the kind of book where you really have to work at it, but it’s definitely worth it.

That last scene, where two people meet and their meeting goes unnoticed by history, always makes me think about those moments in my life. Things that have been said to me that I never told anyone about. Meeting someone in passing, and letting that person touch my life. Not walking away unchanged.

I can’t tell you specifically what those moments are, but that’s part of their charm. They’re best not spoken about. They leave no discernable trace, and yet, something is changed. Something that can’t be defined.

I am sure that this would make more sense if you had read Possession. I can’t say that I encourage everyone to read it. It’s one of those books that is lovely, but not for everyone.

There are dozens more books that make me cry for various reasons. I have noticed that books that didn’t used to affect me now affect me in different ways. Little Women didn’t used to cause me to tear up, but it does now. To Kill a Mockingbird affects me differently than it used to. I am bringing an entirely different set of experiences, an entirely different perspective to these books than I did when I was twelve or thirteen (half my lifetime ago).

Sometimes I feel like all that reading I did was wasted on me when I was so young. I wonder if, in another 20 years, I will feel that way about the books I am reading now.

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