Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: Book Review
Searching for a captivating love story, I needed a book on the plane when no electronics were allowed. I picked up Me Before You at the airport in Nadi, Fiji. I had a five-hour wait at the airport and the twelve-hour flight home to Los Angeles. It rated as #2 in the airport corner store. I read the back cover, bought it, and took it to one of the airport couches to read while my iPad charged. I didn’t let go of it until I finished it.
The agenda issue that drives this book is whether or not suicide is justified. It is a religious and moral issue. This book attempts to show the emotions that drive a person to consider taking his or her life.
The hero of the story, Will Traynor, Superman personified, determines that his new quadriplegic life is not worth the breath it takes to live it, and unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide. After surviving his first attempt, he promises that he will give his parents six more months of his time. His parents spend the next six months trying to disuade him from his commitment. This story unravels that six month period.
The Characters in Me Before You
Superman’s mother, a judge, hires unlikely Louisa Clark to help change his mind about trying to commit suicide again. Will’s mother reminds me of Leonard Hofstadter’s mother on Big Bang Theory. Louisa could be the unqualified Penny with an extra dose of insecurity. Will’s father is too busy having a love affair to take much interest in his son’s collapsed life.
Louisa’s home and personal relationships exacerbate her inferiority complexes. She works slavishly to help support her family financial. She does not realize much personal benefit from the arrangement. Her father is a working slouch and somewhat verbally abusive. Her mother cares for Louisa’s grandfather and adores Louisa’s older sister, Treena, and her child. Her fitness-crazed boyfriend dotes on himself and blinks awake at Louisa’s presence only after he meets Louisa’s quadriplegic patient, Will, at her birthday party.
I think readers hope beyond hope for love to thrive. They want Will to live and love Louisa, but does he? Will he change her life? The question Moyes used to challenge us throughout the book was whether or not there is ever a justification for suicide.
Moral Issue and Questions
Me Before You made me think. Will Traynor could not accept the limitations placed on him by his life. He lived with extreme pain. He agreed to try life for six months, then reconsider if his parents would accept his decision at the end of the six months.
Are families better off if they don’t have to care for a person 24/7? Is it better to take care of details on your own time and leave the pain behind on your schedule? Do severely handicapped persons contribute nothing to society?
A moral issue is at stake. Assisted suicide is not legal. When is it ok to break the law? The biblical beliefs that influence our laws reject suicide. Who is in charge of life, God or man?
But Will’s life for the six-months trial period benefitted Louisa more than his death would have. She had a job. He made her think and gave her confidence. She blossomed as Will introduced her to a different life than she could afford on her own. She did not know about the six-month agreement to life. Was Will’s death wish fair to Louisa, his parents or others that his life touched before and during the trial period.
Will could not know how things would work out whether or not he committed suicide. Would the pain lessen over time? Could he continue to tolerate the pain if it did not? Would someone find a miraculous cure for spinal injuries? Would someone make a caregiving mistake that would cost his life, negating the six-month trial? Would God forgive him if he committed suicide? Would God forgive those who endorsed his wish? If Will and Lisa fell in love, would love tide him through the bad times? Would he hold her back from a fuller life?
It is interesting to imagine the book with alternate endings. Me Before You raises more questions than it gives answers. The sparks of love move the book forward in an unstoppable way.
The Rest of the Series
- A+ Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray
- A+ Book Review: The Glass Castle: A Memoir
- A+ Book Review: Entertaining an Elephant
- A+ Book Reviews: Soul’s Child
Have you read the book or seen the movie? What is your opinion? Have you read the sequels?