Memorable Love Story
In JoJo Moyes’ 9th novel and international bestseller, “Me Before You”, we meet an unlikely heroine Louisa Clark, a 26-year-old unemployed waitress. She has led a sheltered working class existence both geographically and emotionally, never living apart from her parents and never setting foot outside her tiny English village. Under pressure from her family dependent on her income, she takes a job as a caretaker for the upper-class paraplegic 35-year-old Will Traynor. Prior to his motorbike accident, Will lived a large life as a wielder of multi-million-dollar deals, extreme sports, world travel, and super-model girlfriends.
Will has not adjusted to his circumstances – being confined to a wheel chair and his apartment adjacent to his parent’s home makes him bitter and hopeless. Will’s mother Camilla hires Louisa out of desperation. Will already has a nurse to attend to his physical needs, so it is hoped that Louisa can boost his morale. Louisa proves to have a lot of backbone, which is necessary to deal with the curmudgeonly and off-putting Will. The premise of the novel is reminiscent of the hit French movie “The Intouchables” with a wealthy paraplegic being cared for by a black man from the projects. In both cases, the high and mighty made low is being cared for by the low and strong, and the caretakers dish out humane care and insistence on the inherent good beneath the flawed surface of their invalid bodies, not pity and compassion.
The curious title “Me Before You”, the author explains as “deliberately opaque – but I think of it as referring to each of them: It’s ‘who I was before I met you’”. As the relationship warms, they each give to and change the other. Will broadens the world for Louisa – she begins reading literature and watching foreign movies with subtitles and is encouraged to exercise her independence and expand what is possible for her future. “You cut yourself off from all sorts of experiences because you tell yourself you are ‘not that sort of person,’ ” he scolds her. “You’ve done nothing, been nowhere. How do you have the faintest idea what kind of person you are?” Irritated by her dithering, he rants, “Promise me you won’t spend the rest of your life stuck around this bloody parody of a place mat.” Louisa makes a project out of expanding the possibilities for Will given his current limitations. She joins online chat rooms with other paraplegics to get ideas, insights, and camaraderie. After a few failed attempts at outings she arranges a trip of a life time to an exotic tropical island where their love deepens. But, is it enough for Will to turn around his will to live?
This warm, human story explores the themes of class differences, how families deal with tragedy, assisted suicide, and whose decision it is to end life. This book proves to be a tear-jerker without being cloying. The movie rights have been sold, so I am looking forward to adding this to my future Netflix queue.
Bryan will be reviewing “Me Before You” on WZZM Take Five morning show which will air 9:00am Monday, January 6. Join the Book Nook Book Club to discuss the book 6pm Monday, January 6 at the Book Nook & Java Shop in Downtown Montague.