books that make you cry

I’d always been told that becoming a mom would change my life in unpredictable and dramatic ways. But I expected things like lack of sleep, being boring to those who do not have children, and getting fat(ter). I did not expect a new phase in my reading choices, although in hindsight each of my major life transitions has resulted in a new favorite book genre.

As a child, I was a fan of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries … so much that I was forbidden by my 4th grade teacher to use any of them for book reports. As I neared my tween years, my reading choices gave way to coming of age novels like those by Judy Blume, Norma Fox Mazer, and Cynthia Voight.  My teen years were filled with horror books by Steven King and Dean Koontz, and simply twisted books like the Flowers in the Attic Series. No, I wasn’t really a happy teen, and this was reflected in my reading choices.

As an adult, I’ve been a fan of the suspense/thriller genre, esp. legal thrillers by John Grisham, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, and Scott Turow. My early thirties saw a brief period where I devoured chick-lit. Probably due to my own relationship struggles and coming to terms with being thirty (remember when that seemed SO old?).

In recent years, I’ve turned to primarily non-fiction with a focus on the social sciences, popular science, and women’s studies. Favorites including books by Mary Roach (Stiff) and Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Tipping Point). Much of this has coincided with my renewed interest in education and my specific area of study which involves better understanding humans in order to design better user interfaces for them.

These days, I find myself engrossed in some seriously sad books involving themes like loss of a child. I don’t get it. As a mom who can not fathom the thought of losing a child, why would I read books that dwell on this subject? It’s almost like when I was a teenager and would intentionally listen to music that I know would depress me (ie “Depressed” Mode).

Anyhow, the latest book to make me cry is Jodi Picoult’s, My Sister’s Keeper. As a recent convert to Picoult novels, I was aware of this one before the movie came out, and have held off seeing it until I read the book. Talk about a moral dilemma. For those of you who may not know the premise of this story, a child is diagnosed with Leukemia at age 2, and given a low prognosis for survival. Unable to find a suitable donor, the parents conceive a “designer” baby who will be a perfect genetic match, and plan to use this baby’s cord blood for their sick daughter. Due to the cord blood, the sick child goes into remission, but over the years needs additional platelets and eventually a kidney which it is assumed that the younger sibling will provide. The younger sibling, now 13, begins to question her role and the expectation that she will continue to provide for her older sister, and in turn files for medical emancipation. The story raises many powerful questions such as whether minors should have the right to refuse medical treatments and how much should one do for one child at the expense of another child.

Books like these, though depressing, help put perspective to the chaos that is sometimes my life. I am blessed with two happy, healthy children. We live in a comfortable home and are not wanting for anything. Our life is pretty good. I can’t imagine the emotional trauma that plagues families with a chronically ill child or who experience an equally devastating event. I guess it’s taken being a mom to appreciate stories like this because it reminds me of just how fortunate I am. And now that I am a mom, I can put myself in the shoes of the mom in My Sister’s Keeper and not outright dismiss her actions as wrong, whereas I think I would have before this life changing experience.

Still, some happy books might be in order. Any recommendations?