Books can elicit many emotions: euphoria, introspection, ugly crying while rocking back and forth in the fetal position. That last one will be familiar to those of us who read A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara, a long and devastating story of four friends as they grow up and deal with trauma, pain, loneliness, and grief. To say it’s a book that will leave you in tears would be a massive understatement. But after finishing that tome of a novel, you might be wondering, what should I read next that will ruin me emotionally? Here are some great reads that will similarly break your heart in sometimes the most cathartic way and may just leave you changed forever.
They say you can never go home again, which in the case of the main characters of OHIO is very true. Over the course of one night, each of these four characters find themselves drawn back to their small hometown where secrets lurk in every home and the more people try to forget, the more the bad memories stick around. From a mysterious package taped to a car to a fateful dinner date to uncovering the mystery of a missing first love, this book unravels in many unexpected ways. You’ll be glued to every page.
Dylan survived one of the worst things that can happen to someone: being stuck for several years in a sex trafficking ring. But now that he’s been out for some time, and the statute of limitations on the crime against him is over, he has found a tentative sort of peace with his fiancé. But when a new piece of legislation gives Dylan the opportunity to seek justice, he’ll have to face his past in order to secure both justice and his future. But will it be worth uncovering all that pain and potentially upturning his whole world? Hot off the presses, THE LOOKBACK WINDOW is sure to spark important discussions about victims’ rights and whether forcing people to relive their worst moments is worth the justice that may or may not result.
A fearless debut novel of resilience, transcendence, and the elusive promise of justice.
Growing up in suburban New York, Dylan lived through the unfathomable: three years as a victim of sex trafficking at the hands of Vincent, a troubled young man who promised to marry Dylan when he turned eighteen. Years later—long after a police investigation that went nowhere, and after the statute of limitations for the crimes perpetrated against him have run out—the long shadow of Dylan’s trauma still looms over the fragile life in the city he’s managed to build with his fiancé, Moans, who knows little of Dylan’s past. His continued existence depends upon an all-important mantra: To survive, you live through it, but never look back.
Then a groundbreaking new law—the Child Victims Act—opens a new way foreword: a one-year window during which Dylan can sue his abusers. But for someone who was trafficked as a child, does money represent justice—does his pain have a price? As Dylan is forced to look back at what happened to him and try to make sense of his past, he begins to explore a drug and sex-fueled world of bathhouses, clubs, and strangers’ apartments, only to emerge, barely alive, with a new clarity of purpose: a righteous determination to gaze, unflinching, upon the brutal men whose faces have haunted him for a decade, and to extract justice on his own terms.
By turns harrowing, lyrical, and beautiful, Hertz’s debut offers a startling glimpse at the unraveling of trauma—and the light that peeks, faintly, and often in surprising ways, from the other side of the window.
A lot changes in fifteen years. What’s fashionable, which music is playing on the radio, even which of your favorite restaurants are open—but what we hope won’t ever change are our friends. However, as anyone who’s been around long enough knows, sometimes it is unavoidable that friends change. College students Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica all met shortly after 9/11 in a NYC bar, and in the fifteen years since, their lives have radically shifted. Will they still be able to hold on to the bonds they formed? Or will they fray and snap, leaving them all adrift? THE BODY POLITIC deals with identity, betrayal, and the curveballs life throws at you.
In the bestselling tradition of The Interestings and A Little Life, this “cleverly constructed and emotionally compelling” (Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation) novel follows four longtime friends as they navigate love, commitment, and forgiveness while the world around them changes beyond recognition—from the author of the “savvy, heartfelt, and utterly engaging” (Alice McDermott) Bed-Stuy Is Burning.
New York City is still regaining its balance in the years following September 11, when four twenty-somethings—Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica—meet in a bar, each yearning for something: connection, recognition, a place in the world, a cause to believe in. Nearly fifteen years later, as their city recalibrates in the wake of the 2016 election, their bond has endured—but almost everything else has changed.
As freshmen at Cooper Union, Tess and Tazio were the ambitious, talented future of the art world—but by thirty-six, Tess is married to David, the mother of two young boys, and working as an understudy on Broadway. Kind and steady, David is everything Tess lacked in her own childhood—but a recent freak accident has left him with befuddling symptoms, and she’s still adjusting to her new role as caretaker.
Meanwhile, Tazio—who once had a knack for earning the kind of attention that Cooper Union students long for—has left the art world for a career in creative branding and politics. But in December 2016, fresh off the astonishing loss of his candidate, Tazio is adrift, and not even his gorgeous and accomplished fiancée, Angelica, seems able to get through to him. With tensions rising on the national stage, the four friends are forced to face the reality of their shared histories, especially a long-ago betrayal that has shaped every aspect of their friendship.
Elegant and perceptive, “The Body Politic is a book about many things—what it means to be unwell, what it means to heal, how deep and strange friendships can be, and how hidden things never stay hidden for long” (Rachel Monroe, author of Savage Appetites).
Any bibliophile worth their salt has read at least a dozen books about how difficult marriage can be, so it should be no surprise that for Mickey and Lucy, who both have chronic conditions, it would be even harder. Mickey has bipolar disorder, and Lucy has a long family history of breast cancer, but the two laid out their vows in such a way to make it work. Which should solve any issues, right? DANCING ON BROKEN GLASS follows the two as their word is turned upside down, throwing all of their carefully laid rules and routines out the window, but in so doing, giving them the ability to explore the depth and richness of their love.
A powerfully written novel offering an intimate look at a beautiful marriage and how bipolar disorder and cancer affect it, Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock perfectly illustrates the enduring power of love.
Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder, and she has a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.
Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put it all in writing. Mickey promises to take his medication. Lucy promises not to blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, they have good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.
An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.
Childhood traumas can have a deep and lasting effect on a person, even if they repressed it in an effort to move forward. For Sally Diamond, who’s spent most of her life sheltered away from the world, going out on her own is a huge deal. But when her father passes away (and she scandalously sets his body on fire in an attempt to follow his rules about “taking out rubbish”), she has to make do. But as her life slowly, and a bit awkwardly, comes together, someone from her past threatens to unearth her dark past. A book that is gut-wrenching in its portrayal of abuse and violence, STRANGE SALLY DIAMOND is a character study that will have you enthralled from the start before breaking your heart.
The internationally bestselling author of the “dark, captivating psychological thriller” (People) Lying in Wait returns with a wickedly dark, twisted, and brilliantly observed new novel about an enigmatic woman confronting her unknown past.
Reclusive Sally Diamond causes outrage by trying to incinerate her dead father. Now she’s the center of attention, not only from the hungry media and police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she does not remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her early childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends, big decisions, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.
But who is the man observing Sally from the other side of the world, and why does he call her Mary? And why does her new neighbor seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged…
Coming to terms with one’s identity can be a beautiful journey . . . or a harrowing one. For Niru, a Nigerian-American who was accidentally outed to his parents thanks to dating apps, it’s certainly the latter. Niru has to go to Nigeria for a “spiritual revival,” and upon returning, is forced into counseling and restricted from interacting with the outside world. Still, Niru fights to remain true to himself and figure out a path forward into an uncertain future. SPEAK NO EVIL deals with important topics, such as coming out in a conservative culture, freedom of expression, and grappling with terrible loss. The book’s third section will have you reaching for the tissues for sure.
I think that most of us have had a “secret” relationship at some point in our lives. For Philippe, that honor goes to Thomas, the handsome young man he falls in love with in high school. The two never acknowledge each other in the hall but find ways to indulge in their secret tryst. As Philippe sets off to become a writer and travel the world, he has a chance encounter with someone who looks just like his lost first love, unfolding memories both beautiful and painful. LIE WITH ME is a beautifully written book about the power and temporality of love, and how it can shape our lives in strange and unexpected ways.
“I remember the movement of his hips pressing against the pinball machine. This one sentence had me in its grip until the end. Two young men find each other, always fearing that life itself might be the villain standing in their way. A stunning and heart-gripping tale.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
The critically acclaimed, internationally beloved novel by Philippe Besson—“this year’s Call Me By Your Name” (Vulture) with raves in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Vanity Fair, Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Out—about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France, translated with subtle beauty and haunting lyricism by the iconic and internationally acclaimed actress and writer Molly Ringwald.
In this “sexy, pure, and radiant story” (Out), Philippe chances upon a young man outside a hotel in Bordeaux who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back at the relationship he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Thomas is the son of a farmer; Philippe the son of a school principal. At school, they don’t acknowledge each other. But they steal time to meet in secret, carrying on a passionate, world-altering affair.
Despite the intensity of their attraction, from the beginning Thomas knows how it will end: “Because you will leave and we will stay,” he says. Philippe becomes a writer and travels the world, though as this “tender, sensuous novel” (The New York Times Book Review) shows, he never lets go of the relationship that shaped him, and every story he’s ever told.
“Beautifully translated by Ringwald” (NPR), this is “Philippe Besson’s book of a lifetime...an elegiac tale of first, hidden love” (The New Yorker).
Damon Fields is born to a teenaged mom in a trailer park in Appalachia, and it seems like his story has already been written for him. And yet, as Damon grows, he bucks every stereotype and uses his wits, charm, and some good luck to try and change the ending everyone else seems to think is set in stone. Inspired by Dickens’s classic DAVID COPPERFIELD, Barbara Kingsolver’s DEMON COPPERHEAD further examines the themes of poverty, circumstance, institutional problems with underfunded schools and the foster care system, hope, and social mobility in a sweeping epic set in one of the poorest rural places in the United States. A must-read for fans of the classics as well as those looking for a book that delves into the heart of so many pressing societal issues.
Photo credit: iStock / Emilija Randjelovic