Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Reviewed by Gerti
I wanted to see the movie when it came to theatres, but didn’t get the chance. So what’s left to do but read the book? So that’s why I picked up Jojo Moyes novel “Me Before You”, and I can tell you, that I haven’t cried so much since I read “The Fault in Our Stars.” The book’s protagonist is Louisa Clark, an odd British girl living an ordinary life until she loses her job at her little town’s café. She tries unemployment, but all their jobs are pretty unpalatable, like working at a chicken processing plant. So she interviews for a job as a caregiver to a quadriplegic, never thinking she’ll get it. But she does.
She’s hired by Will Traynor’s mom, but it is with Will that she will spend many hours. Tentatively at first, they begin a relationship that will end in love, but not in marriage. Will was a very successful businessman before a tragic accident while hailing a cab left him wheelchair bound. He used to be tremendously active, like sky-diving and mountain-climbing active, and resents Louisa for being able to do those things, but living her life in a small way – by sitting in front of the TV eating chips during her hours off. He wants her to live larger and experience more, but her life isn’t that sad. She has a long-time boyfriend who she’d marry eventually, but working for Will allows her to see that chaps even more selfish than is Will.
Will’s mother hired her to keep Will from killing himself, because although he can watch movies and write and search the internet with special attachments to his wheelchair, that’s not the life he wants to lead. It’s not enough for him. Even Louisa’s love is not enough. And that’s where the heartbreak comes in. Everyone wants Will to live and be satisfied with his lot, but he refuses. As a result, the book brings up a lot of big questions – what makes a worthwhile life? Is it the same for everyone? Louisa visits quadriplegic blogs and learns what activities might keep Will engaged and alive, trying to get him to change his mind about dying during the 6 months in which they are together. And the reader hopes fervently it will all be enough… but Will still decides to kill himself.
Deep issues, surrounded with controversy and human pathos. That’s the essense of Moyes seemingly light-hearted story. Will devastates his parents and his girlfriend by his choice, and I hate him a little for making it, but I have strong feelings about suicide. And while I can understand his choice, it ultimately seems the wrong one. I was much more sympathetic when the heroine in “Still Alice” heroine decided she would rather die than lose her mental faculties. But Will’s mind is still sharp. It’s his heart and humanity that are broken.
This novel is well written, and I love the character of Louisa. Her eccentricities and her relationship to her family seem blissfully normal. Memorable scenes include Will’s trip to the racetrack on a rainy day, and his ex-fiance’s wedding to his former best friend, where the pair “dance” in his wheelchair. Moyes has written a humane, thought-provoking book, even if I don’t buy her conclusion.