A friend recently sent me this blog posting at Blue Rose Girls where they were discussing sob inducers they read when they were kids. The one book they discuss that I remember sobbing over was Where the Red Fern Grows. In fact, Mr. Clark, my fifth grade teacher, let the girls go and read the last chapters out in the hallway to avoid the teasing from the boys. We sat surrounding a box of tissues and worked our way through the heartbreaking ending. My favorite memory of that day? Coming back into the classroom and seeing the guys trying to hide their red eyes and runny noses. Apparently it was a book we all could have cried over together.
Honestly, Where the Red Fern was a fairly typical book for me to cry over though. Put an animal in peril and I will be sobbing about three words in. I am the girl who freaked out over killer whales eating seals (my poor father…explaining the circle of life to a distraught three year old who didn’t get that Shamu had to eat too). The streak has continued. Mom cried me through the end of Shiloh, one of the few books I can remember Mom reading to both my sister and me. My younger sister wasn’t one to sit and listen to stories.
We had a reading program in elementary school called PARP, Parents as Reading Partners, where we had to read so many hours and so many books with our parents to get our rewards. Dad had a rule that he got to choose one of the books I would read. He chose some doozies over the years (I came late to the wonders of science fiction. Have Space Suit, Will Travel was excruciating to try to read in 5th grade). But none quite got to me like Call of the Wild. I think I’ve blocked most of it out if I’m being honest but I remember the first chapter. There is a dogfight. That was it; Dad found me with tears streaming down my face fifteen minutes into the book. I don’t remember him recommended another animal book after that. Apparently he’d finally learned his lesson. (Until about 12 years later when he thought watching Eight Below was a good idea. I think I cried the last 40 minutes of that film. I had a husky growing up; I think this makes these stories even worse for me to try to read.)
|Me giving Luk, my husky a bath. Heavens, look at those bangs. This is circa the mid nineties…|
But I have to admit I am hard pressed to think of a book that has made me cry that doesn’t involve animals. I am apparently heartless when it comes to human characters in my books. I’ve been thinking about this since I read the aforementioned blog post. I think maybe there were tears when Matthew died in Anne of Green Gables in sixth grade. I was more interested in that series that I devoured that year than Bridge to Terabitha that I was supposed to be reading for class. I know I didn’t cry in that book; I just found that girl annoying. In fact, she was the first character I was sort of actively gunning for. A new phenomenon for me. It wasn’t until I encountered Dora Copperfield many years later that I rooted for a character to mercifully exit the narrative (and heavens did I laugh when I found out Jasper Fforde shared my view of the situation).
OK, I shed some tears in the Harry Potter series, notably the fifth and seventh books where Rowling just decides to blindside you several times. I also shed tears in The Hunger Games but made it through its two sequels without nary a tear in sight. Maybe I just don’t usually read tearjerkers? They aren’t usually my style. I will be the first to admit I enjoy “chick-lit” as much as the next hopeless romantic and there aren’t usually tears to be found in what is essentially a romantic comedy film in book form.
Or maybe I just don’t have the same sympathies when it comes to humans that I do to animals. Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t. I wonder what that says about me? I will always send money to the ASPCA or the World Wildlife Fund over anyone else. I would rather volunteer at an animal shelter than a homeless one. Maybe I feel safer with animals? Or maybe I am more on a footing I can handle? I am not always the best people person, I’ve worked hard over the years to get over a shyness than makes me want to hunker down with a movie rather than go out to a bar (let me tell you, that was especially not fun to handle in college). But I’ve always been good with animals. Dogs, cats, rodents, and the odd exotic one I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with. I volunteered during a demonstration at The Raptor Project a couple summers ago to feed a bald eagle. It may have been the highlight of my summer that year. Right before they let me have an awesome picture taken with an Eagle Owl. That completed my life.
Well, for whatever reason, the books that make me cry usually have an animal that I want to reach in and save from the clutches of the author. So whatever that may say about me, I leave to the reader’s discretion.
Photo: Scott Thomas, check out his blog! That is a scanned slide that had been stored in our basement for years. I did the best I could with color correction. The archivist in me cringed…