Some books have a way of breaking hearts and leaving the wounds open. From isolation and longing for company, strained relationships with one’s loved ones, the struggles of motherhood, a cheating husband, racial bias, to the scuffles with old age, struggling to make ends meet and to become your true self in a world that refuses to accept you as you are, these books will surely break your heart, while representing the everyday world we inhabit. Yet, in their own ways, they will endeavour to provide you some solace and offer you a way of being in the world despite all its antagonism. Samiksha Ransom gives us a list of eight such books:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Where the Crawdads Sing is a coming-of-age novel with an unusual story line, but one which is nevertheless, quite relatable and manages to hit a chord with us. Kya is raised in isolation or even by the marshes of North Carolina. She is deserted by her family, including an abusive father, is unable to gain an education because of the discrimination she suffers at school, is suddenly abandoned by the man she loves and suffers physical abuse from the hands of men like Chase. But the same world which is so dangerous, ultimately strengthens Kya and she learns to stand up and fight for herself in a world that is so eager to destroy her. Kya lives a full life, writes and publishes her book and gives herself the gift of justice.
Nightcrawling by Leila Motley
A book that keeps you on the edge throughout, Nightcrawling is the story of seventeen-year-old Kiara Johnson, who unlike others of her age, finds herself in a world that is horrifyingly dangerous. With her mother in prison, and her older brother who does not care for her or her nine-year-old brother, Trevor, Kiara is unable to pay her rent and soon finds herself on the streets. She has no other option but to enter the sex-trade to keep herself and Trevor afloat. One day she gets into a scandal with the police and even this new life takes a turn for much worse. Kiara can expose the corruption in the police department, but honesty comes at a price.
Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Though a science fiction novel about human clones being raised only for the purpose of donating their organs to fellow humans in need, Never Let Me Go will touch all your heart’s strings. Kathy, Ruth, Tommy and others grow up in Halisham boarding school, believing themselves to be orphans before they come to know the truth – they have been cloned and will have to go on with their donations soon, and will therefore die soon. However, they also hear somewhere that their donations could be deferred if two of them are in love. What follows is the uncovering of a series of heartbreaking truths that will lead them nowhere. Or worse, somewhere they do not want to go. Never Let Me Go raises important questions about humanity, humans and the humane.
Britt Marie was Here by Fredrick Backman
Britt Marie is an old woman who has relied on her husband for a long time, until of course, he cheats on her. When that happens, she somehow finds within herself the courage to leave and move into Borg, a city which is no more than a town, with only two shops. Britt Marie decides to take up a small job in the town and care for a group of poor children, while her own life also takes a turn with the introduction of her new love-interest, Sven. Meanwhile, Britt Marie’s husband also returns and begs to mend their relationship. Sven and her husband compete with each other for Britt Marie, but in the end, she manages to become her own person and find her true self.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea is the story of Santiago, an old fisherman who has decided to put himself to the quest of catching a giant marlin. This comes after Santiago has not been able to catch a single fish for eighty-four days straight, and as a consequence, is being considered unlucky by his community. On the eighty-fifth day, Santiago ventures too far into the sea and manages to catch the giant marlin. The only problem is that it is too heavy to put in the boat and Santiago is simply forced to drag it along. On his way back to the shore, Santiago encounters several sharks that try to eat the marlin and loses considerable bits and pieces of it over time, until he is left only with the skeleton of the fish, by the time he finds himself ashore.
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
The world standards are harsh for mothers. When a single mother Frida makes the stupid decision of leaving her months old daughter, Harriet, home alone for two hours, her neighbours call the police and Frida finds herself in ‘the school for good mothers,’ a correction facility for ‘bad mothers.’ Frida does her absolute best to follow her instructors’ directions, complete training to be a ‘good mother’ and pass all the required evaluations. Yet, she loses her daughter’s custody. What’s more? The standards of evaluation for mothers and fathers in the facility are not the same. Of course, Frida’s friend, a father, gets custody of his son, while Frida is prohibited from meeting Harriet for the rest of her life, unless approached by Harriet herself. The School for Good Mothers is a sharp critique of unequal standards of parenting that the society holds for mothers and fathers.
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Considered to be a modern re-telling of Little Women by Louisa Mary Alcott, Hello Beautiful is the tale of the four Padvano sisters, Julia, Sylvie, Emeline and Cecilia, braving the world to live fulfilling lives and become their true selves. However, it’s not that simple to hold fort together, especially when they have different goals, different mindsets and different personalities, and two of them love the same man. The sisters find themselves in clashes, long periods of dreadful silence, yet their love for each other remains the same and they re-unite every time tragedy strikes.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Maycomb, Alabama during the period of the Great Depression. When a black man, Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman, things go haywire for Atticus Finch, the middle-aged lawyer fighting the case of Tom, and his children, Jeremy and Jean Louise. Jeremy and Jean Louise also attend the trial and though it is found out that Tom is actually innocent, he is convicted by the jury. While Atticus Finch still wants to fight to reverse the order, Tom is shot on the streets and killed as he tries to escape the prison. A heartbreaking book about racial discrimination and bias, To Kill a Mockingbird accurately represents society’s horrific truths.
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About the Author:
Samiksha Ransom is a writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Tint Journal, EKL Review, The Chakkar, JAKE, The Lake, Live Wire (by The Wire), The Friday Poem and more. Her work was longlisted for the Poet’s in Vogue Challenge by the Young Poet’s Network, UK in 2023. Currently, Samiksha also edits for The Selkie Publications CIC and The Dawn Review. In the past, she has edited for the borderline and The Terrarium (Hellebore Press) literary magazines. In her newsletter, ‘Letters from Sam – Conversations, Maybe’ on Substack, she shares writing and publishing tips. She also teaches creative writing workshops occasionally. You can reach out to her on Instagram and Linktree.