Thursday, September 3, 2015

Me Before You

Title:  Me Before You
Author:  Jojo Moyes
Publication Information:  Pamela Dorman Books. 2012. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0670026603 / 978-0670026609

Book Source:  I read this book based on a friend's recommendation.

Opening Sentence:  "When he emerges from the bathroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows and flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed."

Favorite Quote:  "You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible."

What would you do? That is the question at the heart of this book. It's the question I hope no one ever has to face, but what if? What would you do if you were Will? What would you do if you were Will's parents? What would you do if you were Louisa?

Will Traynor is a young, vibrant, wealthy businessman until a motorcycle accident leaves him a quadriplegic. He now lives on his parent's estate with continuous in-home car. His life, as he knows it, is over. Along comes Louisa Clark, a young woman living a closed, sheltered life in her small corner of the world. She needs a job, and Will's parents need a companion for Will.

At first glance, Louisa seems ill-equipped for the task. She has no nursing skills and no relevant experience. Her last job was in a cafe. Yet, she manages to reach Will in a way no has since his accident. Louisa is hired for only six months. Why? As Louisa discovers, therein lies the decision of Will's life.

Me Before You takes on the very serious, very divisive issue of the "right to die." Ultimately, each individual makes his or own choice. The debate centers around whether such a right should ever exist under the law, whether it should exist under the law in certain circumstances such as a terminal illness, or whether it should be a universal legal right. For many, it is a very simple decision of faith; for others, it is an equally simple decision for completely different reasons.

Regardless of your beliefs, this book draws for you the image of one family grappling with this situation. Most of the book is from Louisa's perspective with an occasional chapter from the perspectives of Will's mother, father, and nurse. Each one provides a glimpse into the struggle Will's accident and decision create for those who love him. Interestingly, the one perspective not really represented in the book is Will's. The reader never gets a chance to see inside Will's head; the story moves around him.

Me Before You has more substance than Danielle Steel books and less intensity than Jodi Picoult books. The book takes on a very serious issue but sets it in the lives of the wealthy. Many will dislike this book for the topic it addresses and the view it takes. I am not getting into that debate, but I can list many story-based reasons why this book shouldn't work.

The Traynor's wealth opens up options such as full-time in home care and impromptu trips around the word, which are completely unrealistic for the majority of the world. Yet, until Louisa comes along, no one has researched or gotten Will the technological tools - such as a voice controlled keyboard - that can give him some independence. His dedicated nurse/therapist didn't suggest these tools? Also, even with the wealth, nothing proactive seems to be done about Will's decision. He seems to get all the physical care he needs, but what about the psychological care?

Most characters in the book do not really develop. In fact, most of them build on stereotypes. Louisa seems to emerge from her shell, but other than that, the remaining characters are relatively one-dimensional. Even with Louisa, it is frustrating to me that a man becomes the reason Louisa sheds her past and reaches for her potential. Why not characterize a strong, independent woman in this situation?

The plot line from Louisa's past seems too convenient and sketchy. Things are hinted at but not clarified, yet this is a defining moment of her life. Why is it there? Once again, why not characterize a strong, independent woman in this situation?

This book paints a very tragic, one-sided picture of Will's life after the accident. The accident was a tragedy, a devastating one. However, many people not only survive such accidents but lead fulfilling, joyful lives. Life is never the same, but that does not mean that life cannot be happy. That aspect is hinted at during some of the online conversations that Louisa has in her research. However, that is barely a glimmer. To me, that message needed a stronger presence in this book. Very few books are written with disabled individuals as main characters. It would wonderful to see strength, courage, and positive qualities in the characters' lives.

All that aside, I can only give one reason why this book does work as a story. It makes me care about this family and about these two flawed individuals with their own decisions and heartaches. I care about them enough to read the book straight through to find out what happens. I will probably read the sequel for the same reason. I want to know what happens next.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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