Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

When Jo Jo Moyes’s Me Before You arrived unexpectedly in the mail, I took one look at the cover and thought I probably wouldn’t read it. It looked light, fluffy and like something I’d read before. It just didn’t seem likely that I’d be in the mood to read it any time soon. One rainy weekend I decided to try a chapter or two to see if I could think of a friend who might enjoy it. In just that short amount of time, I was hooked. I finished an almost 500 page book in one day, and I would have happily read more.

Lou Clark is a delightful heroine. She is a young woman without any particular aspirations to leave her home or her job working in the local bakery, which she loves. When the bakery goes out of business, Lou takes on a series of dead-end jobs to help support her parents and older sister, who is also living at home with a young child. Lou’s life changes when she takes a temporary assignment working with Will Traynor, a wealthy quadraplegic who is not adjusting well to his new life circumstances. Both their lives are transformed as Lou looks for ways to engage her reluctant charge with the opportunities in life that are still available to him.

I can’t say enough about how much I loved this book. Moyes does a beautiful and sensitive job detailing what goes into the care of quadriplegics, the mindsets of the caregiver and the cared for, and the dynamics between them and their families and friends. Will and his family grapple with the concerns of negotiating a life that will be forever lived on terms that are drastically less than what was formerly experienced, and the resultant changes in personality and life expectations. His family has to decide how much they can hold onto a son that is finding it extremely difficult to engage in life.

Moyes writing easily captures the life and flavor of all her characters. I enjoyed their interactions and pondering what the future held for them. She also masterfully balances humor and drama – the issues are serious and the stakes are high, but the story is more inspirational than not. Lou is happy-go-lucky, fun and full of eccentric outfits and personality, all employed to form a relationship with her surly employer. The novel communicates the intimations of the budding romance between a formerly physically active man grappling with the new terms of his existence, and a young woman exploring opportunities she wouldn’t have experienced before. There is also a careful and balanced treatment of  hotly contested social issue that really surprised me. Read with a hanky or a box of tissues. Highly Recommended.

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