Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Publishing/Viking
Publication Date: December 31, 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Series (Me Before You #1)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Dear fellow Babblers,
Just bury me with Will please. I am feeling everything I never thought I could feel: heartbroken, in love, confused, hopeful, hopeless – everything is so beautiful and everything hurts. I’ve cried tremendous bouts of tears reading this love story, both happy and sad. This book is one you will never forget, taking readers on a journey through a closed off world where pain is so real that death is something to look forward to. Love, not even love sometimes is just not enough. Me Before You, set aside the promise that it will break your heart, will also change your perspective on the little things – walking, eating, the sunshine, taking chances, taking risks, having choices. It calls into question our everyday life and where we choose to go and who we choose to become from this moment.
Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Louisa Clark is a quirky, chatterbox 26-year-old whose wildly eccentric and colorful clothing makes her stand out in her small town outside of London. She’s worked at the same cafe since she was a teenager and cannot begin to dream up a life outside it’s doors. She’s been dating an average-looking personal trainer Patrick for years for no real reason than that it makes sense. One day she walks into work expecting to grind the same beans, hear the same voices ordering the same drinks, listening to the same customers making the same complaints. Instead she’s met with a ‘closed’ sign and her boss waiting to give her her last paycheck. Louisa’s life is about to take a turn that not even Louisa herself can see coming.
Will Traynor is a handsome business man. He indulges in life’s possibilities and is always looking to tomorrow before today is even finished. He jumps out airplanes, loves Parisian sidewalk cafes, and never not lives. He loves London the idea of having choices, taking risks, seeing the world; never being contained in one place. His life is turned upside down one rainy day on his way to work when he is hit by a driver who loses control of the wheel. In an instant Will loses all vivacity and faith in life as choices are here on out made more him, risks are no longer a possibility and of course not chances. Everything changes and nothing for Will never again be what life is supposed to be.
Will is a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair, has little voluntary movement and require round the clock care. All past caretakers with experience, degrees and professionalism have been a failure and walked out of the job. Time is ticking and Will’s mom is becoming desperate to find someone to save her son from himself. Louisa is out of a job, needs money to take care of her family, and has little experience outside of serving coffee. The local job centre places Louisa is a variety of jobs, all of which she finds pitiful and pathetic. She ultimately obtains a six month contract as a caretaker, finally accepting the job more for the promising salary than for her own sanity.
A few weeks into the job and Louisa’s breaking down. Will is impossibly cranky, bossy and can’t seem to stand Louisa near him, less the sound of her voice or knowledge of her presence in the house. Louisa busies herself with minuscule tasks like cleaning the tiles on the bathroom wall, bringing Will in continuous warm beverages and scrubbing the floor. However, as time wears on the two begin to fall into each others rhythm with some orders from Will and quick comebacks from Louisa. They develop a unmistakable bond and soon make it into each others hearts in a way that one could only think possible in fairytales.
Assisted suicide is a theme that pervades throughout the entire novel. It calls into question the meaning of life and making choices between life an death. Each character is put into the position of rethinking the very definition of life and distinguishing the nuances between living and surviving. Will seems to be just barely holding onto life as he now sees himself as simply a doll confined to a wheelchair, surviving and no longer being given the opportunity to make live or even make choices on his own life. He is left to watch the world pass him by, sitting in front of the window as the seasons change, people move on and the world outside forgets that he ever even existed. The portrayal of suicide in the novel was overwhelmingly touching as Moyes presents both sides of the story, leaving the reader to make his or her own decision on whether to take Will’s mothers side or Louisa’s mothers side.
The majority of the novel is narrated by Louisa with a few chapters told by other characters to give background information and tell thoughts of other characters that Louisa wouldn’t have access to such as Will’s nurse and friend, Nathan, and Louisa’s younger sister, Trina. As the novel progresses Louisa’s hope and confidence in her mission to save Will becomes stronger and all the more heartfelt. She becomes more than just an awkward companion to a crippled and overwhelmingly depressed man. She’s the one that keeps Will holding on for as long as he does. She joins online forums to find activities and ways to make Will believe he can still lead the life he once did. She thinks and spends every waking moment with Will in her thoughts, trying not to watch as the days, weeks, months on her calendar fall and slip away. Louisa is such an affective voice in the book through her observations of Will as well as her own self reflections of her progression. Will inspires her to get out of her bubble and take the world, while she still is young and has a chance. He urges her to seek adventure and be someone greater than what the town allow her to be. Will’s faith in Louisa gives Louisa the faith she needs in herself to take chances, risks and make choices. The reader sees this from little pivotal moments here and there in the story such as the scene in the tattoo parlor, Louisa’s flashback to the maze incident growing up, as well as her adventure scuba diving towards the end.
If all the little yet ripping events in between weren’t enough to tear apart my heart the ending was brutal, just completely and utterly brutal. After the final holiday that Louisa, Will and Nathan took together I was looking towards a completely different, more romantically classic ending. I was definitely not prepared for the way it all ended up. But then again, it is a sort of feminist, contemporary ending where the girl doesn’t necessarily need the guy to sweep her off her feet and lead her into a happy ever after in the sunset. In this story Louisa makes it into the sunset alone, without a guy. This little turn I really liked, but then again there is a part of me that just felt as though Will was completely giving up hoe at adapting to life as it was now available to him. His life was a miracle and, though it was not the life he chose, it was still in the grand scheme of things a life better than many other people were able to get out of a traumatic accident. But then again, reading all the little pieces of Will’s life that he could no longer have for himself from typing a letter on his computer with his bare hands, to dancing with a girl on his own two feet, and even to walking up the steps to his favorite restaurants there is also a part of me that admires Will for having held on for as long as he did. This new life was not life to Will. This new world of pain, constant attention when put in public situations, it was all just too much for Will, even with Louisa around to make it all somewhat more bearable.
Me Before You is an inspiring and memorable story that left me in tears, both happy and sad. Though the ending was not as I would have pictured going in, it was nonetheless perfect in its own right. Lives are changed inside and outside of the story as life and what it means to live one’s own life as one chooses must be redefined. The characters are charming and realistic to the point I found myself at times being them in the course of the story. This book captures everything I’ve ever looked for in a book – romance, heartache, loss and self discovery. This is one of those stories that will make you shudder, sending chills up your spine even after you turn the last page.
(Book image credits go to Goodreads)