Top Ten Toughies

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is “Top Ten Books Dealing With Tough Subjects.” Well, I’m cheating a little bit. I feel like most books dealing primarily with tough subjects are contemporaries (and sometimes non-fiction), which I don’t really read much of. However, there are, of course, tough moments in every good book, and I wanted to highlight ten quotes borne out of these tough times. Today’s list is in no particular order:

1. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

The main character, Mary Russell, lost her parents and brother in a car accident that she was also involved in but survived, and it continues to haunt her years later. She finds herself confiding to Sherlock Holmes about how the accident happened (after refusing to talk to anyone about it all this time). When she does, this is their conversation:

Mary: If you’re going to reassure me that it wasn’t my fault and say that I mustn’t feel guilty about it, Holmes, I’d rather you left, because that really would finish us off, truly it would.

Sherlock: No, Russ, I wasn’t about to say that. Give me some credit, I beg you. Of course you killed them, It was not murder, or even manslaughter, but you are certainly guilty of provoking a fatal accident. That will remain on your hands… I hope you realize that guilt is a poor foundation for a life, without other motivations beside it.”

When I read this for the first time, it really struck me. Imagine being so blunt with a person when they feel so much grief and guilt. And though it hurt Mary, it was what she needed to hear to help her heal.

2. A Walk to Remember

This is the only Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read, and from what I understand, they’re all pretty much tear-jerkers like this one. *SPOILER* Landon falls in love with Jamie, who is dying from cancer, and they both learn about unconditional, sacrificial love. And while such a love is amazing, it can also be painful at times, especially when you have to see the person you love so hurt.

“Had it been possible, I would have traded my life for hers. ” – Landon


3. Finding Alice

I’ve mentioned Finding Alice on here a few time before; it’s the story of a young girl named Alice as she becomes diagnosed with schizophrenia and her journey in dealing with it. As you can imagine, it is tough for her to grapple with.

“But fear is confusing. It tears you in two. Half of you wants to run far, far away, but the other half is paralyzed, frozen, immovable. And the hard part is that you never know which half is going to win.”

4. The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place is the true story of Corrie ten Book, who hid Jews during WWII and was punished by being placed in a concentration camp. She describes the brutality of the camps, and the anger and hatred she felt towards her enemies when she was finally free. And yet, through her faith in God, she was able to forgive the people who hurt her, her friends, and her family.

“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.” 

5. A Grief Observed

I have actually not read A Grief Observed in its entirety, but I have read excerpts from it. It was written by C.S. Lewis after his wife passed away, and this quote about grief has always stuck with me:

 “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”

 6. Little Women

* SPOILER* When Jo returns home after receiving the news that her sister Beth is dying, the two have one last conversation that I think is quite touching. Beth has always been the quiet one who would rather stay home and play piano than go off for adventures in Europe or leave to get married like her sisters. And yet, she is not afraid of death. And though Beth and Jo are opposites in many ways, they have a close relationship. Some of Beth’s final words to Jo are:

“I never wanted to go away, and the hard part now is the leaving you all. I’m not afraid, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in heaven.”


7. Unbroken

Unbroken is the true story of Louie, a WWII airman whose plane crashed, leaving him stranded in the ocean for weeks, only to be “rescued” by the Japanese and placed in POW camp. When he finally gets to go home years later, not just to America but to the house he grew up in, it’s an emotional moment:

“On an October afternoon, Louie stepped out of an army car and stood on the lawn at 2028 Gramercy Avenue, looking at his parents’ house for the first time in more than three years. ‘This, this little home,’ he said, ‘was worth it all.'”

8. The Book Thief

I just started this book, so I don’t have much to say about it yet, but I found this particular passage a haunting and beautiful description of a goodbye between mother and daughter:

“There was the chaos of goodbye. It was a goodbye that was wet, with the girl’s head buried into the woolly, worn shallows of a mother’s coat.”

9. Mockingjay

*SPOLIER* In the beginning of Mockingjay, after all that Katniss has already been through, and then to be told her home is in ruins, it is undoubtedly a lot to process. How she deals with the grief…

“Some walks you have to take alone.”

10. Ender’s Game

Ender endures a lot in Ender’s Game, from being separated from his family for years and years to enduring the constant emotional, physical, and mental strain of Battle School. After Ender has left school and finally been reunited with his sister, he feels he can never really be happy again.

Ender: We have to go. I’m almost happy here.
Valentine: So stay.
Ender: I’ve lived too long with pain. I won’t know who I am without it.


Well, that was depressing list. So tell me, is there a “toughie” quote from literature that sticks out to you?

Also, here’s a cute kitty to help us all feel better…


12 Responses to Top Ten Toughies

  1. I’ve never read A Walk to Remember, but I watched the movie, and although I never felt the chemistry between the actors, the story itself was sad.
    I’ve never read The Book Thief yet and the quote you put down definitely caught my interest.
    And the ending of Mockingjay was sad. After everything they went through and going home only to see nothing was left? I would have bawled.
    Great list! (:

    My TTT

  2. Aw what a cute cat! Glad to hear you’ve started The Book Thief! Definitely made me an emotional wreck, but one of my all time favorites. And again, after seeing Finding Alice on your list I had to run off to make sure it’s on my TBR list – and yes, it is! Really interested in that one. Oh and A Walk to Remember. I haven’t read the book but remember seeing the movie when it came out and crying my eyes out. Heartbreaking! Great TTT!

  3. I haven’t read A Walk to Remember, but I saw the movie and bawled my eyes out!

    I just finished The Book Thief, and omg. So good. So many beautiful, breathtaking quotes like that one, sprinkled throughout, in just the right places. I think I tagged more beautiful passages in that book than in any other so far. Definitely looking forward to your review for it!

    • I picked up The Book Thief pretty much impulsively and randomly, as it was not on my TBR list or anything. But basically, I was searching for various e-books available through my library’s website, and when I randomly decided to search for The Book Thief, having heard so many great things about it, and I saw it was available now and I wouldn’t have to place a hold on it. So I downloaded it! There are several great passages that make me wish I could mark them!

  4. I love that you included Ender’s Game! It’s one of my favorite books of all time, yet it didn’t make my list!

    Also, thanks for the cat, I was tearing up at the end of your post and I really needed it! (I actually thought of doing the same on my list!)

  5. Finding Alice immediately reminded me of a movie I saw a few years back called Phoebe in Wonderland. Phoebe wasn’t schizophrenic, but had Tourette syndrome. It was really heartbreaking to watch her symptoms progress and become more destructive as her family refused to acknowledge anything was wrong with her, and thus help her. It’s a movie I would probably never want to watch again just because of the emotions it brought out in me, but would recommend others to watch for the same reason.

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