Adult,  Big Book

Me Before You

Jojo Moyes
Me Before You cover artLou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time

This was my book club read and I expected a bit of chick lit from reading the blurb. However this story is a whole lot more than that, and a better read for it. It totally outdid my expectations. There is a little hint in the blurb showing what the book is really all about but it totally passed me (and the others in my book club too, I am relieved to say) by. I do feel that maybe there should be a stronger suggestion of what is to come as this novel covers very sensitive issues and will not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you are all geared up for a light romance! That said I can’t write about this tale without referring to the subject it is really all about, so if you don’t want to know stop now!
Louisa is a fabulous character, a great mix of strength and insecurities she has a boyfriend who is obsessed with running Triathlons and a sister who has stolen the limelight at home. Still living with her parents Louisa is one of the main bread winners and when she loses her job this is a catastrophe. After a series of disastrous attempts at new jobs Louisa ends up as a carer to Will who has been in a motorbike accident and is now a ‘quad’, quadriplegic. She has no experience of this kind of work but needs it too much to walk away.
From this premise we go on a journey with both Lou and Will as they learn about each other and about life. It is obvious (and is some ways Louisa is slow to catch on) that Will is unhappy with his
life, and Jojo demonstrates clearly the devastation his accident has caused and the on-going suffering and indignities he endures. These trials faced by Will run deeply, not just the loss of his old life, his inability to move and do things for himself and the difficulties associated with total dependency on others for virtually everything, but also things that are less obvious; Will is often in pain (he can still feel despite being unable to move) and he lives in fear of illnesses that might be caused by his condition. In addition he has to deal with other people’s good intentions, the way they think they know what is best for him and what he should be doing. Previously Will led a life action, adventure and adrenalin highs. A big life. Now it is small and so restricted, the epitome of his worst nightmare and as Lou gradually discovers, he hates every moment of it.
Slowly their bond develops and Lou learns about Will, his condition, his moods, his frustrations and gradually she begins tro break down the walls around him. She makes plenty of mistakes along the way but it is these ups and downs in particular that make the story feel so real. This is also no one sided relationship. Will challenges Lou to break out of herself, to try new things. He makes her examine her relationships with her family and her fella. He pushes her to overcome the hurts from her past that hold her back. It is brilliant that Will brings as much to the relationship as Lou does. In their own ways they are both equally vulnerable, it is not just that Will needs Louisa, but she needs him too.
Obviously there is lots of emotion in this book and it is not just focused on Lou and Will. In particular Jojo does a great job of showing how this has affected Will’s family. Everyone has a different way to cope with the situation they find themselves in and the on-going strain on everybody is huge. Will’s mother appears cold and separate in the beginning but it is clear by the end that she has struggled to show Will how she feels alongside dealing with her own difficult emotions. I was drawn in by the depth of the characters; even those who only play a small role in the story still show some level of complexity. As it becomes apparent that Will is seeking to end his misery in a clinic in Switzerland the sympathy for the family becomes even greater. Lou cannot bear the thought of this and makes it her mission to prove to Will that his life is still worth living. Jojo handles these matters with sensitivity and manages to make you sympathise with many sides of the equation. The subject of euthanasia is so delicate and yet it is easy to understand how Will has reached the point of desiring to end a life which he despises and feels so useless in. Equally the horror and sadness that others feel for this is not diminished, neither are the reactions of those who want to support Will but have no idea how best to do this in such a situation.
As Will and Louisa become closer their relationship becomes more complex, it is always clear that, because of the situation, there is not going to be any straight forward happy ending to their story and watching them grow together this put me on tenterhooks. You will have to read it for yourself to find out how it does all end, but I will warn you to have a box of tissues at hand.
Verdict: This is a story of laughter and tears, overcoming difficulties and not overcoming them, loving and hurting and dealing with a whole range of emotions. But it is still a story of hope, of caring for others and learning to live happily in a difficult world. It is certainly a book that I would highly recommend.
Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 582
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book

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