Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Jan 19, 2015
But when my book club chose this book for January, I knew this was my chance. It just gives a book a higher purpose when you know you're going to be able to discuss what you liked and didn't like with other people. Plus, out of all the books Jojo Moyes has written, this is the one that most interested me.
Sadly, my inkling proved correct: it was full of language and a few (thankfully, not very explicit) sexual scenes. For that reason, it's probably not going to be one that I recommend very often (if at all), but there was a lot to think about and discuss.
Will Traynor has his life exactly where he wants it: he is successful and wealthy, athletic and adventurous with a beautiful girlfriend. But one day, while simply crossing the street to catch a taxi, Will is hit by a motorcycle and becomes paralyzed from the neck down.
Two years later, Louisa Clark is looking for a job. The little cafe that she has worked at for the past six years is closing, and there aren’t many other jobs in Lou’s little tourist town. But one day a job is posted asking for someone to be a companion for a disabled man. The position doesn’t require medical training, so Lou applies (and is subsequently hired).
Of course, you can probably already guess that the disabled man is Will (not the elderly gentleman Lou is expecting). He is cynical, rude, and arrogant. Lou spends the first couple of weeks telling herself to just hang on and endure. The position is for six months only, and Lou’s parents are really dependent on her income so she knows she needs to stick with it.
But then a couple months into the job, Lou discovers why she was only hired for six months, and she becomes bent on helping Will rediscover his will to live in spite of his permanent dependency.
If you had presented Will’s choice to me before the book—live with his disabilities or willingly end his life—it wouldn’t have even been a choice. Given my religious beliefs, life should always be chosen. We were sent to earth to experience trials and experiences that help us learn and grow and ultimately become more like God. We do not get to choose when we die, only how we will live.
But wow, if you take religion out of the equation (which this book effectively does, even though both Will’s and Lou’s mothers are somewhat religious), the choice becomes so much grayer and harder to define. Will is living a life vastly different from the life he wants to live. He can’t do the things he loves, even little outings are huge ordeals, people stare at him, and he is constantly at risk of infection, illness, or other complications. I could turn off my own convictions for a minute, and yeah, if you didn’t believe that there was more to your life than this short little blip on earth, then I could totally see why you might not want to put yourself through years of torture and misery.
But then, at the same time, I couldn’t. Even looking at it from a purely secular point of view, there was still so much more to consider than just one person’s selfish interests—things like family and friends and living for others instead of just yourself and the challenge of learning new things and creating a good life with what you have.
Lou’s life is a striking contrast to Will’s. She’s 26-years-old and has lived her entire life in a tiny little tourist town with almost no ambitions, and yet she is physically able to do anything. Will has done almost everything a person can do but now is confined to a wheelchair without even the use of his hands and arms. So really, this story becomes as much about Lou making the most of her life as Will making the most of his. And I really liked that aspect of it (although I found Will's attitude of "You need to make something of your life!" rather aggravating since he refused to make anything of his).
My least favorite character in the book was Patrick, Lou's long-term boyfriend. I felt like he was created for the sole purpose to dislike so that everyone would be so happy when she fell in love with Will instead. Making him so disagreeable, self-centered, and oblivious to Lou's happiness seemed totally unrealistic. They'd been in a happy relationship for seven years, but a few months before the book starts, Patrick becomes obsessed with building his body for extreme sports and doesn't give Lou very much time or thought. The whole thing was turning sour as just the right time, and it felt a little contrived to me.
I already admitted in my 30 things post that I dog-ear pages. When I read something I like, don't like, or want to remember, I gently turn a little corner down. Then, when I sit down to write my review, I go back through all the dog-ears, and it helps me focus and organize my thoughts. Usually the book is riddled with dog-ears, but when I went back through Me Before You, I found only three (and two of them were on the same page and reserved for a different post I want to write). For some reason, that's really telling to me. I liked the book, I found it thought-provoking, but in the end, I guess there wasn't much I particularly wanted to remember.
If you've read this book, I'd love to hear your opinion of it!