The best books with a Sophie’s Choice type moral dilemma

Who am I?

I grew up in the sciences. I’m a psychiatrist by training and can happily spend hours rooting out emotional responses in people and dissecting their behaviors and reactions. All stories need action, but what I find equally interesting to the plot of a novel are the characters’ responses to that action, the subtle shifts that take place in their personalities as the story progresses, and my own predictions of how the author will present those character arcs. I suppose that’s why I gravitate toward character-driven novels, and why I write them. I hope you find this list useful and enjoy these stories as much as I have. 

I wrote...

She Wouldn't Change a Thing

By Sarah Adlakha,

Book cover of She Wouldn't Change a Thing

What is my book about?

Sliding Doors meets Life After Life in Sarah Adlakha's story about a wife and mother who is given the chance to start over at the risk of losing everything she loves. A second chance is the last thing she wants.

When thirty-nine-year-old Maria Forssmann wakes up in her seventeen-year-old body, she doesn’t know how she got there. All she does know is she has to get back: to her home in Bienville, Mississippi, to her job as a successful psychiatrist, and, most importantly, to her husband, daughters, and unborn son. But she also knows that, in only a few weeks, a devastating tragedy will strike her husband, a tragedy that will lead to their meeting each other. Can she change time and still keep what it’s given her?

The books I picked & why

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My Sister's Keeper

By Jodi Picoult,

Book cover of My Sister's Keeper

Why this book?

Choices and the freedom to make them. Choices and the burden of making them. This is the crux of My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult which I first read in 2006 shortly after giving birth to my twin daughters. I was a blubbering, emotional mess by the time I finished it, but I immediately had to start over and reread it. 

What would I have done?  

What clues did I miss on the journey?

I wasn’t an author when I read My Sister’s Keeper, but I decided in that moment that if I was ever to write a book, I would emulate Jodi Picoult; I would force the reader to question everything, even their own moral tenets.

The Light Between Oceans

By M.L. Stedman,

Book cover of The Light Between Oceans

Why this book?

Secrets. Secrets. Secrets. 

How long can you live with your secrets? And how well? As a psychiatrist, I can’t get enough of the internal angst we glean from books that just don’t translate well into movies. 

What makes a decision right or wrong? Is it the consequences of that decision? Is it the intent behind the decision? 

While the secrets the protagonists harbor in The Light Between Oceans and my books are different, the emotional turmoil is eerily similar.

The Time Traveler's Wife

By Audrey Niffenegger,

Book cover of The Time Traveler's Wife

Why this book?

Traveling back in time would be fun, right? What could possibly go wrong?

If this is your stance on time travel, then you probably haven’t read The Time Traveler’s Wife. I didn’t read this book until after I wrote my own book, but I appreciated the authenticity of the characters’ emotions and echoed Audrey’s notions on the complexities of time travel. Going back in time would more than likely be a terrifying endeavor. It’s fun to imagine the Freaky Friday and Thirteen Going on Thirty scenarios, but if you’re looking for more “realistic” time travel vibes, you might consider The Time Traveler’s Wife.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

By Stuart Turton,

Book cover of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Why this book?

I love puzzles. And I love riddles. And I love books. So, what’s not to love about a puzzle box of a book?

This was a book I didn’t read until well after my book had been published, and I’m still not sure why it took me so long to find it. I feel like maybe Stuart Turton and I are kindred spirits. Like maybe he somehow gained access to my mind and plucked out the perplexing and completely tangential thoughts that live there. The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an amazing work of art. It’s complex—and perhaps sometimes confusing—but absolutely brilliant. 

The Dream Daughter

By Diane Chamberlain,

Book cover of The Dream Daughter

Why this book?

What wouldn’t you do for your child? What wouldn’t you sacrifice?

Diane Chamberlain wrote a blurb for my book, and while I had already read many of her books, The Dream Daughter was one I had missed. I quickly devoured it in one night and then sat stunned that we had penned such eerily similar novels. Two women, mothers, traveling through time with the life of a child hanging in the balance and a gut-wrenching dilemma hanging over their heads. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in time travel, murders, and child abandonment?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about time travel, murders, and child abandonment.

Time Travel Explore 153 books about time travel
Murders Explore 334 books about murders
Child Abandonment Explore 23 books about child abandonment

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Time Machine, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, and Never Let Me Go if you like this list.