Good Minds Suggest—Chris Bohjalian's Favorite Narrators Who Will Break Your Heart

Posted by Goodreads on July 8, 2014
Chris Bohjalian goes inside the precocious mind of a teen in crisis in his latest novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands. Emily Shepard, 17, is homeless and on the run following a reactor meltdown at a nuclear plant in Vermont, an environmental disaster that may have been her father's fault. Her first-person narration, told with raw emotion and driven by a tenacious will to survive, guides the reader through her harrowing days following the meltdown. From psychological suspense to historical fiction to ghost stories, Bohjalian has written 17 wide-ranging books, including the bestsellers Midwives (an Oprah's Book Club pick), The Double Bind, and most recently The Sandcastle Girls and The Light in the Ruins. He recommends five novels told with stirring narration.

Room by Emma Donoghue
"Jack is five years old when he starts to tell us about his life and his little world: a single room he shares with his mother that, as far as he knows, is the entire universe. There really is nothing else but their room, with its skylight and wardrobe and bed. What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys—through Jack, innocent and unknowing—the horrific reality of their captivity.

And what is most heartbreaking? Jack's mother's desperate love for him, and the way she will do whatever it takes to keep from him the awful truth of their plight— and then how she will do whatever it takes to give him at least one chance to escape."

Schroder by Amity Gaige
"Room is about a mother's lioness-like love for her male cub; Schroder is about a father's determination to regain his daughter. In the midst of a divorce he didn't want and still doesn't understand, Eric Schroder desires more than anything to have his six-year-old once more in his life. He is losing her, he fears, just as he lost his wife. And so he abducts the girl. A bad decision? You bet. It's especially misguided in light of the secret about his identity that Eric has been harboring for years. It is [heartbreaking to] watch Eric make one spectacularly bad decision after another, all because, like any decent father, he loves his daughter so very, very much."

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
"There is some required reading in middle and high schools that drives young adults to their Xbox consoles. We all know the sort of 19th-century doorstops I'm talking about. And then there are staples such as Flowers for Algernon, the wrenchingly beautiful tale of Charlie Gordon. Charlie is chosen to follow the path of a laboratory mouse named Algernon. Why? Because Charlie has a low IQ, and an experimental operation has dramatically increased the mouse's intelligence. Now it's time to try the procedure on a human. Keyes, who passed away in June, skillfully handles the rise (and fall) of Charlie's IQ in the narrative. This is no small accomplishment as a novelist.

But in Charlie, Keyes also gives us a writer who—regardless of whether he is the smartest guy in the lab or merely a baker's assistant—will break your heart. 'Please,' Charlie writes at the end of his story, his once brilliant mind failing fast, 'if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.'"

The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken
"I'm a big fan of Elizabeth McCracken and the poignancy that buttresses her sly humor. This novel is one of the quirkiest love stories I've read: A young, misanthropic librarian named Peggy Cort tells us on the first page of her tale, 'People think they're interesting. That's their first mistake,' and then falls for a boy who soon will become the Tallest Man in the World. It's clear that no good can come from this relationship, and certainly the pair's romance is doomed. One scene toward the end of the novel, when Peggy is sobbing in the bathroom, has stayed with me nearly 18 years now.

But what might be the most heartbreaking (and lovely) part of Peggy's story? The gift the giant leaves Peggy Cort and the way it will change her forever."

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"We all know the narrator; we all know the story. We all want a father like Atticus. But is there anything more heartbreaking than a young girl's discovery of the injustice that marks our world? Of the violence that mars towns great and small? Likewise, is there anything more affecting than a young girl's realization of just how much she is loved by a parent—what she and her brother mean to their father?

Of all the lines in this remarkable novel, the ones that always break my heart are the last two: 'He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.'"

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Unique Narrators

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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message 1: by judy-b. (new)

judy-b. judy-b. Thanks for the Schroder rec - I agree with you on all the others, and I loved Midwives, so I look forward to reading Schroder.

message 2: by Louise (new)

Louise Droz I haven't read The Giant's House or Schroder but I will be looking for them. I loved all of your other recommendations and read them more than once. Currently I am reading your newest book, and I just can't put it down!

message 3: by Abby (new)

Abby I've read four out of five and am putting Schroder on my list. Thanks!

message 4: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Downing The Giant's House has stayed with me for a very long time too....a beautiful story.

message 5: by Sue (new)

Sue Great list! I have read all of them except Schroeder and I just ordered it based on your recommendation! thanks

message 6: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I've read every one of those and couldn't agree more. These are all on my "recommends" list as a bookseller! Can't wait to read your newest.

message 7: by Cinnomen (new)

Cinnomen Ordering Schroeder now. All the others are fantastic reads, I adore Room, one of my favourite books, as is Flowers for Algernon. So will definitely read the only one from this list haven't gotten to before now Thanks for the recommendation.

message 8: by Pam (new)

Pam As a teenager, Flowers for Algernon was the first book that touched my heart and made me cry! It has made an impact on my life by the way I look at people and see the good in them and what they add to the world! Fabulous choice!

message 9: by Jami (new)

Jami I'm with everyone else; loved the books I've read that you recommended and will be adding Schroder and The Giant's House!

message 10: by Junieth (new)

Junieth Espinoza Hello ,I am studying English and I like yours histories ,your books

message 11: by Junieth (new)

Junieth Espinoza I am from nicaragua

message 12: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Feder Room is a wonderful book. Flowers for Algernon is on my books-I-love-and-read-at-least-once-a-year list. The others just made it to my (oh sooo long) to-read list. Thank you!

message 13: by Cara (new)

Cara Hinton I've read all of these except "Schroder" and "The Giant's House". "Flowers for Algernon" remains one of my all time favorite books, so I'm loving the opportunity to read other book suggestions by someone who also loves my favorite books. THANK YOU!

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Excellent list - Flowers for Algernon is one of my top favorite books. It's pure art form in writing, an experience I won't forget. I own ROOM to read, have heard mixed things on it. The Giant's House sounds interesting; add to the wish list. I'm sure Schroder is good but I don't like the frustrating types of plots like that, so will stay away from that one.

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