I read JoJo Moyes’s Me Before You a couple of weeks ago, and after I finished explaining it to my husband, I asked him, “What would make an author write such a sad book?”
His response was, “Really...that’s your question? How about what would make you want to read such a sad book?”
The story revolves around Lou, an aimless woman in her mid-twenties who lives in the English countryside. After losing her job, she takes a position as care assistant to Will Traynor, a wealthy, good-looking, 35-year-old quadriplegic. Prior to a motorcycle accident two years earlier, Will had been a successful businessman with a penchant for dangerous sports and hot women. Now he’s pissed off and in constant pain.
Lou’s lot isn’t easy. She and her father are the only two employed members of her family, and his job hangs by a thread. She lives at home with her parents and grandfather, moving into a closet when her unwed sister came home from University with a baby in tow. Lou must make a go of this new job, even if her employer, Will’s mother, is a suspicious sort, and Will’s sarcastic, cutting behavior results in her feeling foolish and clumsy.
What Lou doesn’t know is that Will wants to kill himself, but he’s agreed to give his mother three more months before going through with it. His mother hired Lou to lift his spirits and though she doesn’t realize it, he does seem happier and more lively once she appears on the scene. He enjoys teaching her about literature, watching subtitled films together, and forcing her to see that she could have a bigger life with a small amount of effort.
When Lou learns about Will and his mother’s bargain, she determines to change his mind. She also falls in love with this impossible man. There came a point in the book when I realized there would be no sugar-coated ending, no last minute reprieve for Will and Lou, and I had to put the book down for a day to prepare for it. He loves her, but he no longer wants to live his life—totally at the mercy of others for the most basic of functions, unable to perform as a man, in constant pain, and with no hope of improvement, only continued decline. No matter what kind of life he may make with Lou, it will not be enough, and that’s the devastating reality Moyes creates for Lou, and for us, to understand.
While I’m sitting here writing about it, I’ve begun to cry, and I haven’t even talked about the ending, which required a half-box of Kleenex to read. I’m still wondering how and why Moyes decided to write this story to torture readers with its incandescent sadness, but it’s a lot easier for me to explain why I wanted to read it even though I knew going it that it had a Love Story vibe.
Sometimes I just need a good cry.
I used to watch Terms of Endearment whenever I found it on TV. I would invariably cry and my husband would invariably sigh, and wonder why I put myself through the agony of watching Debra Winger die of cancer after her mother theatrically ran around screaming for the nurse to give her the shot.
Why indeed? Sometimes I just need a good cry.
My favorite book of all time—Kathryn Lynn Davis’s Too Deep for Tears—is the first in a trilogy of romantic, historical novels that I read on a beach in Hawaii. My poor husband, once again witness to my blubbering despair, did not know what to do for me, other than help me clean the snot-soaked sand from my face when I finished reading. I love this trilogy and have re-read it often, even though I know I’m doomed to cry. When All We Hold Dear and Somewhere Lies the Moon were published, I actually set aside time to read each non-stop, as crying mini-vacations. Afterwards I felt relaxed and cleansed, as though I’d spent weekends at a spa doing yoga when by all rights I should have been exhausted from a lack of sleep and all that crying, twice over.
Joy Fielding’s The First Time is another romantic novel in which death is a foregone conclusion. Mattie Hart married her husband Jake when she discovered she was pregnant with their adolescent daughter. Jake is a serial cheater who had his first affair when their daughter was a toddler. Just as he’s about to leave her for his newest girlfriend, she has an accident, and subsequent medical tests reveal she has ALS.
Jake moves back home to help care for her and their daughter even as Mattie refuses to accept what’s happening to her body. She’s so resentful of the situation that she decides to sleep with a man who’s been coming on to her even as Jake is with his girlfriend...and their daughter is losing her virginity. It’s powerful and authentic, and afterwards, Mattie, who cannot bear her husband’s pity, gives him an ultimatum. She says, “Either pretend you love me, or get out.” He decides to pretend, and as a result, they share the emotional vulnerability lacking in the rest of their marriage.
As with Me Before You, The First Time offers the opportunity for a different sort of happy ending, for a chance at acceptance and love even when there is death. Although this book is nearly 20 years old, I can remember to this day sobbing so loudly at the ending that I scared the cat.
I don’t often choose to read weepies; I prefer light to dark because in my opinion reality offers enough darkness. And yet, there are times when I crave a good cry. I’ve focused on non-genre books, but a good number of weepies are among my favorite romance reads, including the following. All but the first are genre romances, and most are likely to be unknown to you...I don’t think I’ve written about any of them here at H&H:
● The Wind from Hastings by Morgan Llywelyn (Historical Fiction)
● Tallie’s Knight by Anne Gracie (Traditional Regency)
● Lord St. Claire’s Angel by Donna Simpson (Traditional Regency)
● A Fire in the Heart by Katherine Sutcliffe (Historical Romance)
● Day Dreamer by Jill Marie Landis (Historical Romance)
● Dawn’s Awakening by Lora Leigh (SF Romance)
● The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell by Samantha James (Historical Romance)
● Once an Angel by Teresa Medeiros (Historical Romance)
● Too Hot to Handle and Chain Lightning by Elizabeth Lowell (originally Category Romances, reissued as single title Contemporary Romances)...Lowell’s books tend to be weepies, but rather than also list the many titles in her Only series that are cathartic reads for me, I chose these two possibly lesser-known titles instead.
I look forward to reading about your your favorite weepies in the comments.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Keep up with her on her My Obsessions tumblr blog, Goodreads (where she spends much of her time as late), follow her on Pinterest, or on @laurie_gold, where she mostly tweets about publishing news and [probably too often] politics.