I think it’s happened to all readers with a heart: you’re reading in public, say a plane or train, and suddenly you find yourself in tears because of what’s happening in your book. I found myself in just this situation last week on a plane to Chicago.
I was reading a galley of Sorta Like a Rock Star and I was overtaken and just started crying, a little at first and then a little bit more. I had no tissues, napkins or anything to wipe my eyes or nose with, so I resorted to dabbing at my eyes with a spare scrunchie that was wound around a my wrist. Luckily, I had no seat mate, but I had a very concerned flight attendant who checked in with me, not once, but twice. Clearly she didn’t believe me about being so moved by a book, I just had to weep a little. Each time I waved her off. Finally, I just had to put the book away for fear I’d struck some main line of tears, and as much as I was enjoying the book, I didn’t want to cry all the way to Chicago.
I know I have customers come into the store very angry with me because they outright sobbed at the last thirty pages of The Book Thief while they were flying home from vacation. “Why didn’t you warn me?” Well, telling customers when they’re likely to sob during a book isn’t part of my job. Although, I will say, I have amended my handselling for The Book Thief to say, “If you have a heart, you will cry at the end of this book. Be mindful of that when you’re on a plane.”
I must say, even crying at home can cause concern. I was reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince outside on my deck and I was sobbing so hard at the death of Dumbledore, I could barely contain myself. I just wasn’t expecting him to be, you know, totally dead. I just sobbed. First my dogs came out to see if was I was okay. Then Elizabeth, who knew what I was reading, came out with a box of tissues.
Books should move us. A good book can give us the whole range of human emotion. The good thing for me is I’ve got Christopher Moore’s Fool to read at the beach during vacation, so hopefully people won’t be concerned for me, they’ll just think I’m a lunatic for laughing at every page.