Novels on trauma and healing
January 27, 2016 4:49 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend novels where trauma and healing are major themes. Bonus points if: (a) it's well written; (b) it's genre fiction; (c) it's a comic; (d) the person who underwent trauma doesn't commit violence or suicide; (e) it will make me cry.
posted by thetortoise to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay... best first novel I have read in a long time. Spoiler for sexual violence which normally I can't read about.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:59 AM on January 27, 2016

Blankets covers sexual abuse and the end of a first love. And it's a comic. And it's gorgeous.
posted by mippy at 5:06 AM on January 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Duma Key by Stephen King.
posted by kbanas at 5:08 AM on January 27, 2016

Hotel New Hampshire - John Irving

Oh, you'll cry.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:09 AM on January 27, 2016

Stone Butch Blues, by Leslie Feinberg (childhood sexual abuse, homophobic violence, etc.)
Another Country, by James Baldwin (about how a group of friends copes with the death by suicide of another friend)
Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle

Daddy's Girl, by Debbie Dreschler, is an extremely upsetting and really good comic about abuse.

A bonus recommendation: not a book, but I really enjoyed/identified with Jessica Jones (the TV show on Netflix) because it is pretty much entirely about trauma.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:11 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell. It's a fantastic piece of writing. Amazon: The story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and talented linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission to make first contact with an extraterrestrial culture... Sandoz returns alone to Earth horrifically maimed, both physically and spiritually, the mission's sole survivor - only to be blamed for the mission's failure and accused of heinous crimes.
posted by crocomancer at 5:26 AM on January 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't read A Little Life if (d) is a deal-breaker.
posted by matildaben at 6:06 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

J.L. Carr: A Month in the Country.

I still think about the final paragraph regularly over a decade after first reading it.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:08 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Reading An Untamed State was probably the most cathartic reading experience I have ever had, but it has incredibly brutal depictions of sexual violence.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:15 AM on January 27, 2016

Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes
posted by Kriesa at 7:13 AM on January 27, 2016

Redwood and Wildfire is a book I loved that hits (a),(b),(d); and also Chime by Franny Billingsley, which hits (a),(b),(d), and I don't know about you but I wept and wept. (It's YA but definitely much better-written than the average run of YA historical urban fantasy).
posted by Jeanne at 7:19 AM on January 27, 2016

If you consider grief to be a kind of trauma, Three Shadows is one of my favorite graphic novels. It will definitely make you cry.
posted by torridly at 7:25 AM on January 27, 2016

Dance With Me (m/m contemporary romance) isn't so much about acute trauma as healing from an injury that changes someone's way of life because it will never fully heal, while the other MC deals with his own baggage. Heidi Cullinan is such a warm and thoughtful writer, and she explores different aspects of masculinity so beautifully.

As for the crying... wow, I never EVER cry at books, but I was literally sobbing for an entire afternoon and needed to be comforted before I finished. "He... he wanted to help so bad, but... but... he had to be helped fir-hir-hirrrrst!"
posted by St. Hubbins at 7:44 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Raw Shark Texts made me cry in public
posted by bq at 8:00 AM on January 27, 2016

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. There isn't one big trauma so to speak, but she lost her mother and herself, and her healing takes place while she hikes. I cried at parts.
posted by kimberussell at 8:09 AM on January 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

There's a lot of good examples of this in YA. Though it seems like in a lot of YA examples, the trauma is something that's revealed gradually over the course of the book, so I guess SPOILER ALERT for even mentioning them here. Two of my favorites are Andromeda Klein and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both are occasionally very funny (AK in particular has lots of incredible wordplay, and both have a lot of sardonic observational humor) and have no serious violence.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:16 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

It also occurs to me that if you haven't read it, Bridge to Terabithia — pretty much the canonical YA Book That Will Make You Cry for my generation — is a really good example of this, both for the protagonist and for one of the minor characters. (Though this was before the modern trend of YA books being marketed to adults, and I have no idea how readable it is if you're not twelve.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:22 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

White Oleander, by Janet Fitch - budding artist prevails over bad parenting and the foster care system.
posted by mmiddle at 8:25 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Goldfinch by Donna Taratt fits the bill.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:26 AM on January 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore but Bitterblue especially. (There is a suicide in Bitterblue but it is not a main character.)
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 10:10 AM on January 27, 2016

There is violence, and it's quite weird, but The Maxx deals with a lot of trauma and hurt in ways I found really affecting. There's one panel in particular (in the 5th volume, I believe, though unfortunately I can't go check right now) that devastated me because the hurt and healing resonated so strongly.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:25 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
posted by cnc at 4:19 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome, I got all the ones the bookstore had (already love The Tale of One Bad Rat, A Month in the Country, Stone Butch Blues, Duma Key, White Oleander, Bridge to Terabithia) and will look up the OOP and harder-to-find ones later. Thanks, and please feel free to add more if you have them!
posted by thetortoise at 8:40 PM on January 27, 2016

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg. It's a quiet book, not blatant trauma, but it very effectively builds the tale of hidden parental abuse that isn't believed by others. My circumstances as a child were different (it was my oldest sister who was extremely abusive to the point of making me fear for my life, literally, and whose abuse was hidden so it didn't have to be dealt with), but the book was emotionally validating and healing for me. I guess it probably wouldn't make you cry unless you've been similarly abused & marginalized. Berg is a very good writer.
posted by onemorething at 8:51 PM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Did You Ever Have A Family, by Bill Clegg

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

I'm not usually likely to cry over books, but I surprised myself when reading the first and last books in this list.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:30 PM on January 27, 2016

Can't believe Stitches hasn't been recommended yet. It's a beautiful graphic novel about the healing of childhood trauma.
posted by DeltaForce at 11:00 PM on January 27, 2016

Response by poster: (Also, it's okay if violence comes up otherwise in the story; what I specifically want to avoid is the trauma being "resolved" through revenge or suicide.)
posted by thetortoise at 2:13 AM on January 28, 2016

Best answer: Robin McKinley's Deerskin! It is a fantasy novel based on the fairy tale Donkeyskin. The trauma is traumatic (rape); but the healing is very well delineated and is not dependent on revenge (although there is some, not violent, comeuppance for the villain). Plus it has a lovely ending. Highly recommended!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 3:57 AM on January 28, 2016

Bastard Out Of Carolina; The Color Purple
posted by sideofwry at 1:42 PM on May 30, 2016

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