Side effects of finishing this novel: alarmingly red-rimmed and puffy eyes, depletion of tissue inventory in one’s household, stuffed nasal cavity
Opening encouragement: Don’t be deterred by the emotional red flags of this novel–you already know that it’s a weeper anyway because you’ve cheated and already watched the trailer to the forthcoming movie and already felt that lump rise in your throat and already told that little white lie that no you haven’t been crying you just have a fleck in your eye ok? I know it, you know it, let’s move on.
Un-spoilery synopsis: Me Before You written by Jojo Moyes begins with the all too familiar “unlikely romance/beauty and the beast” formula – quirky, cheerful and unfashionably-fashionable Louisa Clark seeks employment after losing her café job and finds herself newly employed by a well-to-do family in her small English town as a caregiver to a 30-something quadriplegic man, named Will Traynor. Will is sardonic, temperamental, and bossy after living a “big” life of wealth and adventure. Now he is reduced to a condition that limits his ability to do anything on his own after a car accident paralyzed him from the chest down a few years prior to Louisa’s entry into his life. In short, he detests his life. Enter Louisa – at first she avoids Will and his caustic manner for weeks until slowly but surely the ice melts. As their friendship deepens, Louisa encounters a secret about Will that drives her to one goal: to find something, anything that brings him joy and the desire to live vivaciously once again. Underlying the narrative between Louisa and Will is a story about family relationships and dynamics, finding a surprising amount of strength and skill in oneself, encountering the desperation to inspire change, and learning to prioritize another’s happiness above one’s own.
Nostalgic Concluding Remarks: Despite the assumption that this is “just a romance novel”, it will make you think. You will react. Moyes has succeeded in bringing voice to difficult questions, some that still might not feel answered at the novel’s conclusion. But that’s her gift to you, reader, in the end to ask yourself, how do you want to live this precious life?*
“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
“Push yourself. Don’t Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”
For Fans of:
*also: see Mary Oliver’s
wonderful poem, The Summer Day and In Blackwater Wood while you’re at it
Written by: Elise Cantini, winner of her 6th grade class’s Read-A-holic award (now many years later, the addiction continues)