My book club's selection for the month of April was Jojo Moyes' bestselling hit "Me Before You". Since I had a couple of days off at the beginning of the week I decided to start it on Sunday night. Six hours later, at 4:30 am Monday morning, I finished the book and dissolved into a puddle of tears. I'm talking the full-fledged "ugly cry" and it was almost dawn before I could stop thinking about it and finally go to sleep. I loved it despite how heartbroken it left me.
Louisa Clark is 26 years old, and her life is very, very small. She lives at home with her family. She has a safe but unchallenging job at a café. Her boyfriend of six years is a self centered ass, but he's familiar and it's easy to continue seeing him. Her life is routine, if unexciting, and that's the way she likes it (there's a reason for her living this way that's revealed later in the book). Everything is predictable and routine until the day that she finds out that the café where she works is closing. Her family is not very well off, so she needs to find a new job immediately to continue to supplement their income. Her options are limited, since she never went to college and hasn't had much work experience. An employment agency finds an opening for her as a paid companion to a man who was left a quadriplegic after a terrible accident, and encourages her to apply since there is no need for any special skills (he has nurses for his medical needs). She's not thrilled at the prospect, but since the pay is good and no other opportunities are out there, she agrees to try. To her surprise, the man's mother offers her the job after a brief interview.
Will Traynor is thirty five years old. In his pre-accident life, he was on top of the world. He was handsome, wealthy, well traveled, and had a high powered career. Everything was snatched from him in an instant and he's deeply angry and miserable. His life is a series of urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, pain in limbs he can't even use anymore, and the humiliation of being unable to take care of his bathroom needs or even to feed himself. He doesn't want to continue living, and just prior to Louisa coming to work for him he used his very limited use of his hands to try to commit suicide in a horrific way. His family is desperate to see that that doesn't happen again, so Louisa is in effect a babysitter for him while his medical team takes care of his physical needs. Will has extracted a terrible promise from his family: 6 months for them to try to convince him to live, and if they can't, he wants to be allowed to end his life. Louisa doesn't know this; she only knows that she feels forced to accept a job where her charge seems to hate and resent her, and which she feels terribly unqualified for.
Will (in his previous life) and Louisa could hardly be more different. They argue regularly, and although Louisa feels sorry for him, she finds his cold, angry attitude very hard to take at first. But very gradually, a sort of respect begins to grow between them and a friendship begins to blossom. Then, to her horror, Louisa overhears Will's parents talking about his plan to commit suicide in six months. From that point on, she makes it her mission to make Will's life worth living and to change his mind.
This book was simply amazing. It's definitely not a traditional romance novel as I feared when I first heard about it. It's funny, tragic, wise, and very thought-provoking. What makes a life worth living? That's the question at the heart of Me Before You.