My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was unprepared for the emotional ride that is Me Before You.
At its heart, Me Before You is love story. Twenty-six-year-old Louisa Clark hasn’t been anywhere really. Money has always been an issue, as Louisa helps to support her sister, her sister’s child, her parents, and her grandfather. But more than that, Louisa has been has let her lower middle class define her. She believes that travel, college, and other accoutrements of the educated upper classes are simply, “Not me.”
When The Buttered Bun tea shop that Louisa has been working in for the past five years suddenly closes, she is forced from her routine to find new employment. This bit of circumstance lands her squarely in the world of thirty-five-year old Will Traynor, a C5-6 quadriplegic, and forces Lou to rethink her safe choices. Will Traynor’s life, up until being hit by a vehicle was anything but safe.
The development of the friendship and eventual romance between Will and Lou is remarkably believable. Louisa, like most of us, is terrified by Will’s depression and sarcasm, but it’s Will’s attitude and Lou’s financial situation at home that forces her to reluctantly stay in her position as caregiver.
“Here’s what I know about you, Miss Clark. My mother says you’re chatty.” He said it like it was an affliction. “Can we strike a deal? Whereby you are very unchatty around me?”
I swallowed, feeling my face flame. “Fine,” I said, when I could speak again. “I’ll be in the kitchen. If you want anything, just call me.”
Will is often complete ass, but it’s difficult to blame him. He is at the mercy of his failing body; from pneumonia, to the pooling of his limbs, Will is in nearly constant pain. So it isn’t surprising that he is unhappy with the peacock-bright Louisa, busying herself in his space.
”I thought I’d see if I could fix any of these frames,” I said, holding one up. It was the picture of him bungee jumping. I tried to look cheerful. He needs someone upbeat, someone positive.
I blinked. “Well…I think some of these can be saved. I brought some wood glue with me, if your happy for me to have a go at them. Or if you want to replace them I can pop into thrown during my lunch break and see if I can find some more. Or we could both go, if you fancied a trip out…”
“Who told you to start fixing them?”
His stare was unflinching.
Uh-oh, I thought. “I…I was just trying to help.”
“You wanted to fix what I did yesterday.”
“Do you know what, Louisa? It would be nice—just for once—if someone paid attention to what I wanted. Me smashing those photographs was not and accident. It was not an attempt at radical interior design. It was because I actually don’t want to look at them.”
I got to my feet. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think that—“
“You thought you knew best. Everyone thinks they know what I need. Let’s put the bloody photos back together. Give the poor invalid something to look at. I don’t want to have those bloody pictures staring at me every time I’m stuck in my bed until someone comes and bloody well gets me out of it again. Okay? Do you think you can get your head around that?”
I swallowed. “I wasn’t going to fix the one with Alicia—I’m not that stupid…I just thought that in a while you might feel—“
“Oh Christ…” He turned away from me, his voice scathing. “Spare me the psychological therapy. Just go and read your bloody gossip magazines or whatever it is you do when you’re not making tea.”
My cheeks were aflame. I watched him maneuver in the narrow hallway, and my voice emerged even before I knew what I was doing.
“You don’t have to behave like such an arse.”
The words rang out in the still air.
The wheelchair stopped. There was a long pause, so that he was facing me, his hand on the little joystick.
In the truce that occurs after this interaction, Will begins to treat Louisa like the fixture in his household she will become. With this shift in power, and as the weeks slip by, Louisa begins to look forward to her days with Will.
Moyes has written a novel that challenges the idea that we know what’s best for those in situations that mirror Will Traynor's. Even Louisa is susceptible to the notion that she knows what Will wants, her judgment—like that of his family, clouded by love and the ultimate fear of saying goodbye forever. What is a life after all? Is it an able bodied person’s right to decide for another what constitutes a life? Is love enough?
Further, Louisa and Will's affection for one another challenges the traditional notion concerning love. Will is determined to make Louisa see that he isn't fit for anyone's romantic feelings. Not surprisingly, Louisa has her own ideas concerning love.
Moyes beautiful novel, Me Before You, challenges us to ask who gets to decide what a life is? It is a deeply human book, both funny, and tragic that asks us, "What makes living worth it?"
Advance reader copy provided by Viking in conjunction Netgalley.com
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