Saturday, May 17, 2014

#26 [2014/CBR6] "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes

I've seen so many favorable reviews for Me Before You (2013) by Jojo Moyes that I was compelled to pick it up. I wasn't sure what I was getting into, but it was worth reading: a thoughtful, sweet, and sad story about two people coming together and improving each others' lives.

Louisa Clark is stuck in a rut. She's in her mid-twenties, lives with her parents, and has worked in a cafe for the past six years. Her boyfriend is obsessed with exercise and has very little in common with Louisa. When the cafe is closed down and Louisa loses her job, she's forced out of her comfort zone. Job options are scarce, so Louisa reluctantly accepts a temporary job as a caregiver for a quadriplegic.

Will Traynor is the opposite of Louisa. He's powerful, competitive, rich, and adventurous. Or he was. Until the accident. Now he's sullen and depressed, stuck in a wheelchair at his parent's house and living through discomfort and frustration.

Louisa takes on the task of looking out for Will during the day, which is challenging because of his attitude and her lack of experience. Eventually her chattering and optimism begin to grow on him, and the two become friends.

This book is primarily about the relationship between Will and Louisa, but both of their families play a large role as well. Louisa's complicated relationship with her sister is fascinating, both loving and jealous. The dynamics of her family is interesting as well, with almost the entire family accepting and participating in the subtle put downs that help keep Louisa from stretching her boundaries. In addition, Will is completely dependent on his parents, but is also willfully independent.

Anyway, this book was well written and thought provoking. I read it in a flash and never got bored, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

The question of whether Will should kill himself and what those around him should do in face of his wish was central to the novel. I appreciate that Moyes explored both sides of the question and clearly showed the pain he was causing to those he loved as well as the pain he had to live with daily. The fact that his case was terminal and he wasn't likely to live ten more years while constantly dealing with increasing pain helped me to understand his point of view. Personally, I don't think I'd be able to let go like that unless I wasn't able to get joy out of anything. But the tragedy of the story is that there is no choice that would make everything all right. If Will had held on, or even decided to wait another year or so, all the people he loved would still be in torment.

I also appreciated the dynamics of Will and Louisa's relationship. She takes care of him, and she learns from him, but they still come from very different backgrounds. Even Louisa makes the point that if he wasn't in the wheelchair, he wouldn't have spared her a second glance.

Finally, I appreciated the emotional impact of Louisa facing the maze, what it meant to her, and what it meant that she shared it with Will. But I'm always a little wary of rape as a plot point, and the whole scene seemed a little too coincidental.

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