Yet again there are a lot of books that could be considered for this category. In this case, I can break it down into categories. (Spoiler alert for the following books: Austen’s Persuasion, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Atonement)
There are the Western love stories in which the author legitimately convinces you the two in love will never be together. Those break down further into a few more subcategories – the author tricked you and the characters do end up together, the author is a jerk and kills off or otherwise separates two characters for no apparent reason other than effect, the author has separated the two characters and the separation seems to be a natural consequence of the story.
I’ll give examples of each!
Persuasion by Jane Austen is an example of the first, although certainly not the best example. There is a point at which the reader wonders if Anne and Wentworth can end up together because Wentworth seems almost duty-bound to engage himself to Miss Louisa Musgrove after her accident. This part of the plot isn’t necessarily obvious to readers of today, but it’s definitely implied and later explicitly mentioned. Anne and Wentworth do, nevertheless, end up together after a separation of 8 years.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is an example of the second kind, in my opinion. Niffenegger separates her two main characters forever by killing off the male character. I have to admit I didn’t exactly finish this book – instead I read maybe halfway through and skimmed the rest. Rest assured I do know how it ends and I while I was skimming I would occasionally read entire chapters. The reason I didn’t finish reading it closely is that the book itself is unnecessarily tragic and I could see the man’s death coming from so far off it was ridiculous (in the sense of being worth ridiculing). I honestly didn’t want to get attached to the characters (funny that I wasn’t already attached – just speaks to my lack of connection with the book). It still made me cry multiple times in the first half of the book. Seriously, this was one of those books that makes me think, “Why was the author so determined on screwing over these two people? They had screwed up lives, why not give them a happy ending?
Ian McEwan’s Atonement is a book in which the author separates the two lovers, but the separation is understandable. To me, this book is a far more understandable tragic love story than The Time Traveler’s Wife. While much of the book is tragic, the tragedy and death in the book seems like the necessary consequence of the events in the book. That the two lovers don’t end up together is entirely reasonable and almost necessary to make the story as wonderful as it is. It’s sad, but the author does not appear to be some cruel god pulling the puppet strings in his characters’ lives. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is similar in that the separation of Will and Lyra seems to be a natural consequence of the story.
Other than love stories, there are definitely plenty of books capable of making me cry. Banana Yoshimoto has a unique ability to evoke emotional responses. Her writing is incredible and emotion-packed. I envy Yoshimoto for her skill in capturing the fleeting nature of time and the power and vividness of memory. Of her works, Kitchen, Lizard and Hardboiled & Hard Luck stand out as the strongest contenders for this category.
I’d also like to mention the book Kinshu: Autumn Brocade as a contender. It’s been several years since I read it, so I can’t recall what about it made me teary-eyed. Nevertheless it’s a beautiful book and I mention is largely to recommend it to you.
The winner? I’m going to have to go with Kitchen.