What do you do when someone you love is miserable? What do you do when they are miserable every day? What if there is no way to help them?
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes is the story of Louisa Clark, a relatively happy girl with a unique fashion sense, who spends her days earning money for her family and enjoying her sheltered life in a small tourist-trap, English village. But when the café closes down, Louisa must find other work. When she answers an ad for a home care consultant, she meets Will Traynor. Will is a quadriplegic who struggles daily with the realities of his situation and wants it all to just end. But when Louisa gets involved, things start to change.
I didn’t really know what to go in expecting when I picked up this book, except for the fact that it was going to become a movie. So it must have something gripping in it. And it definitely did. This story just pulls you into its arms, especially in the beginning when we walk into Louisa’s world of café regulars and predictable family life. I think everyone can relate to Louisa on some level — it’s always nice when things go exactly the way they always have. Routine is comfortable for most people. So when Louisa begins to lose that routine and unknowingly takes a job caring for a daredevil adventurist who has lost his active abilities, her life takes on a new veneer of purpose.
I fell in love with Louisa from the beginning. She is chatty, willing to jump at any opportunity, lovingly caring toward her family and unafraid to be who she is and wear what she wants. Will, on the other hand, is often mean, moody and stuck up in a petty sort of way. Just like Louisa, it takes a long time to find the good in him, yet it is rather easy considering the life he has led so far — beaten down by coincidence and human error.
What I really loved about this book was the way it forces readers to question the things they thought were givens. What would you do if you suddenly loss the use of your body? What would you do if it happened to someone you loved? How would you live your life differently? Why do we chose to live the lives we do?
When I found out that the main plot twist of this story was Will wanting to legally commit suicide, the story immediately took on a new life. I had been expecting a sort of “Beauty and the Beast” situation, but instead Louisa is tasked by Will’s mom (and herself) with making Will want to live again. How do you make someone want to live when they have lost nearly everything they once were? And should you even attempt it?
This issue of ethics gave the story new life; on one hand, you understand why Will would want to do this, but on the other, you are rooting for Lou to come up with some way to make him understand that life is worth living. And, as it turns out, doing things cannot compare to the love of another when the question of living is presented. Throughout each one of Lou’s activities, you are either cringing or laughing and sighing because it either worked or it didn’t, but at least she tried. One of my favorite parts is their attendance at the opera and the wedding. They are such beautifully written moments that you feel you are there with them — you can almost see the hope in each of their eyes.
I thought the ending was wonderful, if terribly sad. If he had gone on to live, that would have been nice, but not realistic. I think Moyes gave us the only ending she could have with the story and characters at hand. And that’s what I want from a story like this: not a perfectly bow-tied love-story, but a realistic and human answer to the questions Moyes introduced. Lou’s transformation throughout the story provides a sort of call to action, to not let the comfortable predictability of routine dictate how we live our lives. Otherwise we will go on missing all of the possibilities of living because we are scared. And that is now way to live.
I absolutely love this book, although I am hesitant about reading its sequel. I am curios where Moyes took Lou, but I think this book could have stood alone. I would highly recommend this for anyone who likes a good, realistic love story about finding yourself.
What did you think about Me Before You? Have you read the sequel and do you think it remained true to the original intent of the first book? What would you do if you were in Lou’s position? What would you feel if you were in Will’s? How does questioning our ethics as human beings help us grow as a society? Let’s talk.