People, they just ain't no good
March 30, 2010 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Book suggestions! Looking for fiction that features people a) being Done Wrong and b) dealing with that and moving on with their lives again afterwards.

Last year sort of sucked for me in terms of personal relationships. One of my (now former) best friends did some mean and messed-up stuff that made it very clear she wasn't who I thought she was; a few months after that, just when my life hit a tough spot, my boyfriend screwed me over and skipped out in an epically awful way. Classy. Anyway, things are starting to look up now. I'm spending a lot of evenings curled up with a good book at the moment (yay!), and I'd love some fiction recommendations that feature people dealing with being let down/hurt/betrayed badly by others - romantically or platonically - picking themselves up again, and going on with their lives.

I don't mind if it's old or new, long or short, an easy read or a mindbending struggle, lighthearted or serious, and any genre's fine. The circumstances of the betrayal/hurt/whatever don't really matter, either - I'm more interested in reading about other people going on with their lives in positive ways after someone else's crappy behaviour, than I am with finding something to exactly match my own bad experiences. Fiction for preference, although I'd be open to reading good autobiographical stuff as well. Happy endings in the strictest sense aren't necessary, but I'd like to avoid any outright tragedies.

Books I've found so far that fit what I'm looking for:

Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride
Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye
Stephen King, Rose Madder
Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Any other suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. Sad and bitter and really good-naturedly funny. (Plus based on a true story.)

Something Borrowed and Something Blue, by Emily Giffen. Significantly (seriously) better than most chick-lit and about exactly this: people going on with their lives in positive ways after someone else's crappy behaviour--as long as you read Borrowed and then Blue right after!
posted by sallybrown at 9:54 PM on March 30, 2010

Honeymoon with my Brother isn't bad and is certainly about getting on with life after someone else's crappy behaviour.
posted by mechrisd at 10:13 PM on March 30, 2010

It's a tough read, and some might argue it's a tragedy, but to me Push (aka the book Precious was based on) by Sapphire is a powerful illustration of how, even in our darkest moments, words contain hope.

I know there must be a ton of books I can recommend (I'm a big fan of the dusting oneself off and persevering in the face of enormous difficulties and emotional tumult), but I am blanking. Oooo! Definitely good reads that have those themes:

Die For You by Lisa Unger and actually all of her books deal with being betrayed and having to recalibrate your view of the world.

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult is all about what and who to believe. I am not a religious person, but that did not interfere with my enjoyment of this book.

I'm sure I will think of more tomorrow after I've had some sleep. If I do, I'll be happy to post what comes to mind.
posted by katemcd at 10:25 PM on March 30, 2010

Proceed directly to All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.
posted by lunasol at 10:57 PM on March 30, 2010

The Count of Monte Cristo
Jane Austen's Mansfield Park
posted by Omnomnom at 11:12 PM on March 30, 2010

Deerskin by Robin McKinley is a fantasy story about a woman moving forward in a positive way after some Really Bad Things happen to her.
posted by creepygirl at 11:59 PM on March 30, 2010

From Stephen King's Different Seasons, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" and "The Breathing Method", and perhaps "The Body."

David Gemmel's fantasy novel "Legend", bracing, but a bit clunky.

"Stuck Rubber Baby" by Howard Cruise - growing up gay in the Civil Rights southern states.

V for Vendetta. The comic, not the rather mediocre film.
posted by rodgerd at 1:46 AM on March 31, 2010

Heinlein's "The Door into Summer"
posted by cali59 at 3:21 AM on March 31, 2010

I discovered Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone while wandering through a supermarket's book aisle while crying from a terrible breakup. Though it may sound like hyperbole, I credit that book (and a script for Prozac) for literally saving my life. I remember thinking "If [main character] Delores can make it through the crappy hand she was dealt, perhaps I should rethink taking that handful of pills." I have not been as moved by a character before or since, to the point that after reading it, I wrote Mr. Lamb to thank him. (This was before Oprah's book club picked him up, and he wrote me the most gracious letter back.)

The book did not hold up well to a second reading, and of course, YMMV, but as a salve for a broken heart, I could not have stumbled upon a better book.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:13 AM on March 31, 2010

Saturday, by Ian McEwan might fit your description.
posted by TedW at 5:43 AM on March 31, 2010

The World According to Garp
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 6:19 AM on March 31, 2010

Pulitzer-prize winning, American bestseller, Gone with the Wind.
posted by Houstonian at 7:11 AM on March 31, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees is about a young girl growing up and learning how to overcome a difficult childhood. Its a lovely book to read.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:30 AM on March 31, 2010

Best ever: E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News.

EVERYONE crapped on the main character in the first few chapters (admittedly, some of my friends said this made for some difficult reading at the start!) but he gradually pulled himself out of it in rather lovely ways, and helped several other people who'd also been treated very badly to move forward as well.

I tear up a little just thinking of the last few beautiful sentences.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:59 AM on March 31, 2010

I wrote Mr. Lamb to thank him. (This was before Oprah's book club picked him up, and he wrote me the most gracious letter back.)

I suspect he might still do this even post-Oprah. He's local to my neck of the woods, and he is a sweetheart.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:02 AM on March 31, 2010

Les Misérables sort of fits...
The Count of Monte Cristo
posted by djgh at 10:18 AM on March 31, 2010

The Lymond Chronicles. 400+ pages of wronged Scottish excommunicated outlaw coming back to the country to clear his name. Evades two national armies, ex-friends and current foes, and the political maneuverings of the time to still-- with wit, verve and flair-- save his entire country. Half the fun of the first 300 pages is not quite knowing if he's the hero or the villain-- until he proves it, conclusively, heartbreakingly and finally, and makes you feel guilty for doubting him on top of it. Definitely inspirational in the courage and persistence department.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:33 AM on March 31, 2010

A couple more:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Master and Margarita.
posted by rodgerd at 11:12 AM on March 31, 2010

Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge is chock full of such.
posted by angiep at 1:13 PM on March 31, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain - the main character gets treated so badly at one point that I had trouble reading it, but then, as one of the reviews says, "the payoff is considerable". It's well worth a read.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:33 PM on March 31, 2010

It's really more of a "making the best of a bad situation" kind of book, but Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie is a good one.

There are also many elements of what you're looking for in Michael Chabon's Kavalier and Clay. It really is a wonderful read.
posted by ghostiger at 7:03 PM on March 31, 2010

I'm chiming in a bit late, but if you're still looking, I recommend just about anything by Marian Keyes, especially Watermelon (dumped with a newborn), Angels (cheated on), and Rachel's Holiday (drug rehab - ok in this example the character was at fault for her situation). Keye's does a great job of presenting characters (many are from the same family) who have sunk to the deepest depths of depression but survive with the help of humor and family/friends. Her stories are heartbreaking and uplifting. Keye's is lumped under that category of chick lit - but most critics admit that she's much more than that.
posted by kbar1 at 10:53 PM on April 3, 2010

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