"Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes is a book that wears many hats -- and it wears them all well. The story takes place in England, and the protagonist is Louisa Clark, a young woman who has just lost her job at the local tea house. Her new job and the people she meets become the focus of the story.
Will is a quadriplegic. He was in an accident and now, three years later, he is far from resigned about his situation. Formerly, Will headed a very successful business and made lots of money. He worked hard and he played hard -- his vacations were all over the world. He climbed mountains, dived in oceans and traversed deserts. Being stuck in a wheelchair is a fate worse than death to Will.
When Lou snags a job as Will's caretaker, she is tempted to quit immediately. Will does not want a caregiver. He has Nathan, who attends to his basic needs and medications. What Lou eventually finds out is that her job is to keep Will from trying to kill himself. When Lou's honesty and her cheerful and eclectic nature seem to win Will over, his mother is thrilled that he might be beginning to enjoy life.
Lou's goal becomes to convince Will that life is worth living, and that he could have a complete and happy life as a quadriplegic. She works diligently on ways to accomplish that. And during the process, both Lou and Will find themselves changing.
Moyes expertly uses first person narrative to tell Lou's story, and in a few strategic spots, she allows some of the other characters to tell their stories.
"Me Before You" would be a great book club book. There are many topics that Moyes presents that are worthy of discussion. England's class system is described in all it's discriminatory glory. One's accent determines one's social class -- Lou and Will come from very different classes. Lou discusses the differences when comparing her mother to others. Her mother loved to hear about the upper classes (and their lack of housekeeping skills) so she could glory in her immaculate house and front stoop.
Another topic -- perhaps the biggest topic in the story -- is that of disabilities. Moyes compassionately presents many sides to this topic. Lou joins a message board and talks to many quads who are content with their lives and have found happiness in spite of their physical limitations. Others on the message board, though, do share why some cannot live with such a disability.
Moyes also touches on mistakes people make and how those mistakes can shape the lives of those who make them -- if allowed to do so. Lou has made a mistake that has influenced everything she has done from that point on. Will helps her get past that and teaches her to think about the world in a different light.
The story is incredibly moving and emotional. Moyes does not, however, go for the gratuitous tears. She presents it all simply and directly, and there are really no surprises. It's beautifully done, and it's a book that people will remember and recommend. It's easy to see why.
Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the publisher, Penguin, for review purposes.
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