Books that will tug at your heartstrings

Books have the ability to evoke amazingly strong feelings amongst readers. While we love finding books that make us laugh so hard we snort out our cup of tea, it is the sad books that can take you by surprise and before you know it you are swept up in an emotional rollercoaster that you just can’t get off (sometimes the thought of closing the book for a little while to gather yourself is just too harsh…because if the character had to go through it, then so must we).

Brace yourself, last year a number of authors went straight for our heartstrings and tear ducts. Here are our favourite tear jerkers that were released. 

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

Like many first-time mothers, Rebecca Stone finds herself both deeply in love with her newborn son and deeply overwhelmed. Struggling to juggle the demands of motherhood with her own aspirations and feeling utterly alone in the process, she reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help—Priscilla Johnson—and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny. Priscilla’s presence quickly does as much to shake up Rebecca’s perception of the world as it does to stabilise her life. Rebecca is white, and Priscilla is black, and through their relationship, Rebecca finds herself confronting, for the first time, the blind spots of her own privilege. She feels profoundly connected to the woman who essentially taught her what it means to be a mother. When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently. Written with the warmth and psychological acuity that defined his debut, Rumaan Alam has crafted a remarkable novel about the lives we choose, and the lives that are chosen for us.

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the story behind the picture is worth a thousand more. 2 CHILDREN FOR SALE. In 1931, near Philadelphia, ambitious reporter Ellis Reed photographs the gut-wrenching sign posted beside a pair of siblings on a farmhouse porch. With the help of newspaper secretary Lily Palmer, Ellis writes an article to accompany the photo. Capturing the hardships of American families during the Great Depression, the feature story generates national attention and Ellis’s career skyrockets. But the piece also leads to consequences more devastating than he and Lily ever imagined and it will risk everything they value to unravel the mystery and set things right. Inspired by a newspaper photo that stunned readers throughout the country, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of ambition, redemption, love and family.

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you. Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. It’s hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

Technically this was released in 2017, but it is a wonderfully moving book that we just had to share it with you. Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things- husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman and trophy wife. But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less. A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his lounge room. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose. Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead – and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

If your life fell apart, could you start again?

Maggie Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her, with a handsome boyfriend and a promising career, until an accident on what should be one of the happiest days of her life takes it all away. Lying in hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing family secrets, heartbreak, and the possibility that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center is an unforgettable love story about finding joy in the darkest of circumstances.

So Much I Want To Tell You by Anna Akana

Okay, full disclosure, this book was actually released in 2017 but it is such a powerful book that we just had to include it. 

From Internet sensation Anna Akana comes a candid and poignant collection of essays about love, loss, and chasing adulthood. In 2007, Anna Akana lost her teen sister, Kristina, to suicide. In the months that followed, she realised that the one thing helping her process her grief and begin to heal was comedy. So she began making YouTube videos as a form of creative expression and as a way to connect with others. Ten years later, Anna has more than a million subscribers who watch her smart, honest vlogs on her YouTube channel. Her most popular videos, including “How to Put On Your Face” and “Why Girls Should Ask Guys Out,” are comical and provocative, but they all share a deeper message: Your worth is determined by you and you alone. You must learn to love yourself. In So Much I Want to Tell You, Anna opens up about her own struggles with poor self-esteem and reveals both the highs and lows of coming-of-age. She offers fresh, funny, hard-won advice for young women on everything from self-care to money to sex, and she is refreshingly straightforward about the realities of dating, female friendship, and the hustle required to make your dreams come true. This is Anna’s story, but, as she says, it belongs just as much to Kristina and to every other girl who must learn that growing up can be hard to do. Witty and real, Anna breaks things down in a way only a big sister can.

Enjoy!