– unlike my others, this review contains some minor spoilers-
This category was considerably easier than the previous three; there are a lot of books which have moved me to tears, the power of literature to do so is overwhelming. For the sake of succinctness though, I will limit this to two books, one nonfiction, one fiction, one which made me cry in the most unexpected of ways, and which is not as well-known as it deserves to be: A Thread of Grace, and one which touched me with its hopeful message even as it spoke of the loss of one of humanity’s greatest treasures.
There are a number of novels about WWII, A Thread of Grace is a departure from what I usually expect out of them because there’s less focus on warfare and the need to bring down the Nazi War Machine, and more on the human elements outside of the concentration camps, those just trying to survive and wait for a day for the fighting to stop.
I remember being touched and weeping during certain scenes, such as Claudette and her soldier sweetheart leaving secret stones at a grave, a mother discovering a torn-up Jewish cemetery when going to pay respects to her dead child, and other moments of pain and anguish which struck me as a Jewish woman and therefore feels the reverberations of that history and pain close to my heart.
But the greatest sadness of all, and the most tears, came to me during one scene: A German Doctor, who is a Nazi and used his particular skills in paediatric medicine to slaughter endless disabled children is trying his hardest to repent, but is denied the chance for absolution by a priest who considers his actions unforgivable. But, the priest ends up drawing attention to himself, and the Nazis torture him, leaving him for dead, and it is the German doctor who finds him, and administers his Last Rites to the priest just before he dies from the exhausting torture. At that moment, the tears started flowing and wouldn’t stop for two more chapters. I can’t convey the emotional heartache in this review, you have to read A Thread of Grace for yourself to understand the strength of this moment between the Nazi doctor and the dying priest.
The second book to make me weep so heavily was Billions and Billions:Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. It was Carl Sagan’s final book, on a variety of topics ranging from extraterrestrial life, abortion, climate change, and Carl Sagan’s struggle with Myelodysplastic syndrome, which eventually killed him. The final chapter is written by his wife, Ann Druyan, and she accounts how she and Carl met, their life together, their shared love, their children, and Carl’s final days before succumbing to the disease.
Maybe I am extra sensitive to this as someone who lost her father at about the same age that Sasha and Samuel were when their father died, but I was in a flood of tears while Druyan described her goodbye to her beloved husband and his parting words to her and his children. Carl Sagan was one of my idols, and to have his departure documented so vividly was a stab in the heart for me, a reminder that he was indeed, gone from this life. And yet, his words remained there, on the page, accessible to me. His voice, his words, his message of hope and optimism carried on in the book, which made me cry even more, knowing that at least part of him lived on, in the pages I was reading then and there.