Friday, October 23, 2015

After You

Title:  After You
Author:  Jojo Moyes
Publication Information:  Viking, Penguin Random House. 2015. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0525426590 / 978-0525426592

Book Source:  I read this book as it is the sequel to Me Before You.

Opening Sentence:  "The big man at the end of the bar is sweating."

Favorite Quote:  "How long do you think it takes to get over someone dying? ... I'm not sure you ever do ... You learn to live with it, with them. Because they do stay with you, even if they're not living, breathing people anymore. It's not that same crushing grief you felt at first, the kind that swamps you ... It's just something you learn to accommodate. Like adapting around a hole."

Louisa Clark is back. The title After You pretty much tells you how Me Before You ends. This book is absolutely a sequel to the first book; the experience of this book will not be even close to the same if you have not read the first book. The emotions, connections, and even the inclusion of certain plot points relies on an understanding of Will and Louisa's story from Me Before You. My definite recommendation is to read the two in order.

The first book takes on the divisive issue of the right to die. This book takes on the issue of grief from so many different perspectives. First and foremost, it is Louisa's story Her six months with Will seem distant and surreal yet so present that she cannot move forward with life even though he has left her a mandate and the means to do so. Her grief swallows her entire life. Her fear of opening herself up to hurt like that again anchors her to her small, narrow life and closed off from new relationships and maybe even a new love.

Then, we have Lily and her grief for someone she never met, the losses of her own young life, and her image of what might have been. She is a teenager with memories of neglect and secrets. As a child, she acts out her emotions and looks for safety where ever even a remote chance of safety exists.

For Will's parents, grief takes completely different manifestations. One jumps headlong into a new life, and one retreats from the world as a whole. Yet, they both grapple with the the unimaginable loss of your only child and the accusations that you had a hand in that death.

For the members of Louisa's grief support group, grief exists for different reasons. For the loss of the love of your life. For the guilt of survival. For the betrayal that death can seem to be. For the guilt of things left undone and words left unspoken. In their own way, each adds to this picture of grief.

Louisa's journey, of course, is the anchor to the book. I enjoy her character more in this book that in Me Before You. Even though she still makes some questionable choices, I find her a stronger, more proactive character in her own life. In fact, I find all the characters more approachable and more rounded in this book as compared to the first, perhaps because the story goes beyond Will's one decision to all these individuals moving forward with their own unique lives.

The author manages to tell the story of grief with sensitivity and with humor - a reminder that even in death and despair, life and new beginnings flourish. Two side story lines - Louisa's parents and her boss - are at times laugh out loud funny. Although these two aspects of the story are not central to or even really needed for the main story, somehow they work in its context. The book takes you from laughter to sadness and back again - sort of like life itself.

After You works as a story for the same reason that Me Before You does. It makes you care about these characters. It makes me care enough that I read the entire book in one sitting.  Now I wonder, will there be a third installment?

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

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