Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: December 31st 2012 by Pamela Dorman Books/ Viking
Number of Pages: 369
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Number in series: Single
Rating: (1-5 stars): 5 stars “Forever Book”
Publisher’s Description: They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely 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?
Please be aware that although I don’t think that this review introduces any information that isn’t found in the publisher’s description, there might be some who feel spoiled. If you are considering reading this book, and I highly encourage you to do so, please consider coming back after reading it and share your views. The book touched me in so many ways and I hope you’ll share your own experience after reading it.
In this review I introduce the classification of “my forever book.” The forever book is a book in which I anticipate reading it numerous times at different stages in my life and expect that the themes and thoughts will impact me in new ways. This is one of those books.
Jojo Moyes presents us with a story that will make us think. What would it be like if I couldn’t use any of my limbs, if I was dependent on people for everything? Would my life be worth living? Speaking as someone who is aging, I find myself limited by bad knees, fatigue and an energy level that have decreased from when I was younger. These are natural events that happen over the course of people’s lives. There’s a process of grieving these small changes in the course of living. So I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and have my whole life be different. And thanks the author, I don’t need to.
The characters in this book were instantly involving. The author gives the reader a glimpse of Will’s life before the accident and then after allowing the reader to really see just how much his life and he have changed. Louise – called Lou throughout the book, is the antithesis of Will. She has no dreams or visions beyond the life she is living. The real joy in this book is that the two of them are so different and yet each has so much to offer to the other.
This is not your traditional romance and as such is beautiful in its own way. There is no instant chemistry but a gradual knowing of the other person. It is beautiful to watch these two people get to know each and grow to understand and then love each other.
I admired Lou. from early on in the book. She is so strong. I loved her openness to seeing Will as an individual rather than a disabled man in a chair. We see this early on when she talking with her boyfriend, Patrick about Will’s ex-girlfriend showing up to say she a former colleague of Will’s are getting married. Patrick doesn’t blame the ex-girlfriend for moving on and says that if he became paralyzed he wouldn’t want Lou to stay out of pity.
“Who says it would be pity? You’d still be the same person underneath.”
“No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be anything like the same person.” He wrinkled his nose. “I wouldn’t want to live. Relying on other people for every little thing. Having strangers wipe your arse – Jesus. Think of all the things he couldn’t do…” He shook his head. “No more running, no more cycling.” He looked at me as if it had just occurred to him. “No more sex.”
“Of course we could have sex. It’s just that the woman would have to get on top.”
“We’d be doomed, then.”
“Beside, if you’re paralyzed from the neck down, I’m guessing the …um…equipment doesn’t work as it should.”
I thought of Alicia. I did try, she said. I really tried. For months.
“I’m sure it does with some people. Anyway, there must be a way around these things if you…think imaginatively.”
And Will… well I fell in love with him too. He is handsome and intelligent, charming and sarcastic, depending on the situation. The story is told from Lou’s point of view with a chapter here and there from other characters. But the only real glimpse of what WIll is feeling or thinking comes from his actions and his words. Moyes never allows Will’s thoughts to be heard and it is a smart choice. It allows us, as the reader to imagine but not really know what it’s like for him.
The other cast of characters, Nathan, the medical assistant, his parents, were interesting and offered opportunities to see how Will’s accident impacted them as well. Lou’s family and boyfriend broadens our understanding of how Lou has become the person she is today.
The tension in the book is driven by Will’s belief that his life is over; he has nothing left to live for and Lou’s determination to prove him wrong. I looked forward to seeing what she was going to try next and how it was going to turn out. It’s through these trips and failed plans that each grows to know and like each other which turns into love. And here lies the irony. In a scene in which the two of them are dancing Lou makes an observation.
Will changed direction. My arms looped around his neck, I pulled back a little to look at him, no longer self-conscious. He glanced down at my chest. To be fair, with me positioned where I was, there wasn’t anywhere else he could look. He lifted his gaze from my cleavage and raised an eyebrow. “You know, you would never have let those breast get so close to me if I weren’t in a wheelchair,” he muttered.
I looked back at him steadily. “You never would have looked at my breasts if you hadn’t been in a wheelchair.”
“What? Of course I would.”
“Nope. You would have been far too busy looking at the tall blonde girls with the endless legs and the big hair, the ones who can smell an expense account at forty paces. And anyway, I wouldn’t have been here. I would have been serving the drinks over there. One of the invisibles.”
Will would never have seen her in his old life. It is because he is where he is that he meets and appreciates Lou; a person that would have been invisible to him before his accident. She becomes a reason to get up in the morning. Can she be enough to give him the desire to want to live?
The answer is one that will have people thinking. This book will engage the reader in contemplating what quality of life means for them. What gives our life value? Meaning? What is enough? Like I said in the beginning, this is a forever book. These are questions that will follow us throughout our life. It’ll be interesting to see if my answers are the same over the next 30 years.