By: Jojo Moyes
Louisa Clark has never given much thought to what she wants to do in the future. At 26 years old, she is quite content with the life she has been living at her family’s home and working in a café. But when the simple existence she has come to know meets an abrupt end, Lou must search for a job to help keep her family afloat. Possessing no marketable skills and a peculiar fashion sense, Lou somehow stumbles into a job as a caretaker for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor.
Previously a very active man, Will despises his situation and almost everyone around him. His family can’t reach him, and he seems perfectly centered wallowing in misery. But Lou refuses to let him think his life of excitement has ended, and sets off to plan adventures to show him just how sweet life can be.
I heard of this book before I saw the trailer for the movie. I shamefully admit though that I was not fully enticed to read it until I saw how perfectly charming it appeared with a unique love story not always explored in every “boy meets girl” romance.
How many love stories do we get that are about a quadriplegic man and an able bodied woman? Let along friendships. How many stories are painfully honest about how fragile humans really are?
This book explores a wide breadth of sensitive topics from assisted suicide to sexual assault. What I’m burning to discuss though is how Moyes handles the explanation of the life of a quadriplegic (quad for short). The story never coddles you. It doesn’t lure you into a false sense of security. It states what it is in big, bold, unabashedly forward, letters. Me Before You explores the disgust, pity, and resentment that face the disabled community. How, rather than looking at people with disabilities as human beings, they are confined to the lesser dignity of being treated as second class citizens. Accompanied by stares, fleeting glances, hushed remarks, and unexpected awkwardness.
I first found myself repulsed at the human race, and then I remembered I’m a part of the human race. Guilt flooded over me like a dam bursting. Without realizing it, how had I judged someone in a wheelchair as a customer coming into my work or when I was walking around the grocery store? Did I glance back after they had passed me? Did I try to ignore them in an attempt to show them I wasn’t gawking at them out of politeness? Did I act any less friendly towards them then the Able Bodied I was used to socializing with? But more so I thought, “What the hell is wrong with me? What the hell is wrong with everyone?” Why does society dismiss so strongly anything that is remotely different then the norm? It’s really no wonder someone suffering after a traumatic accident with limited mobility feels like any less of a person! Not only are they trapped in their own bodies, forced to watch everyone else go on with their lives like normal, they have to deal with all of the crap that comes from the people they used to know asking what happened, if it will get better, and wishing them well.
Then there are the strangers that don’t even have the grace not to stare. That’s how society treats them! Which is why I’m glad Moyes wrote this book. I’m glad to have an understanding of a life I had not previously thought for any real length of time about. Because it’s easy to take for granted living the life of someone who can do what I want when I want without any real level of assistance.
And if you can find it in your heart to not think I’m a horrible person for saying so, I hope I never get a taste of that life. I don’t know how many people would be willing to say that out loud or write it for the world to see, but I wouldn’t be fooling anyone for saying otherwise. I have a much deeper respect for my physical wellbeing and total mobility as well as disabled life and the struggles that accompany it. But that doesn’t mean I would want to experience it first hand. I’m not sure anyone would if they had a choice. But who am I to speak for the world? I’m just one person. I’m me. And I’m immeasurably privileged.
Sorry folks. Can you tell this book got to me? More of a rant then a book review, huh? How about I get back to some of the happier qualities of the book. For starters, I loved, and I mean really loved, the fact that this book is not all about sex. Sex isn’t the most important thing in romance. Thank you! And it’s dealt with in a very frank and direct manner. Two thumbs up for not beating around the bush with bullshit.
If you are anything like me, you suffer from second hand embarrassment almost as terribly (if not worse) than you suffer from your own embarrassments. These cases in Me Before You are sweet and well intended. Not without pain, but worth reading anyway even though it will probably make you close the book in a couple spots and breath heavily.
Most of the book is daily life rituals and mini-adventures in the life of a depressed quadriplegic man. At that recommendation, I’m sure you are just thrilled to go running at this book. But Moyes makes it interesting. There were times I thought, “You know, this is surprisingly simple” and yet I was hooked. I wanted to know what would happen so much so that I got fiercely irritated with my family anytime my reading was interrupted. Especially at the end. Oh, I was a beast trying to finish this book. It was pure. Messy yes, and yet somehow still pure. A love story unlike anything I’ve ever come into contact with. I recommend it. I feel like I learned a lot from this story as long as it is safe to assume it is an accurate depiction of quad life.
Overall rating: 4
Ps. This is just a side note and I promise this is not anything significant to the plot of the story. I just waned to comment because I think it’s fun.
Lou is very quirky and I sat wondering if she liked tattoos and if she would ever get one. I love tattoos and think they are a really awesome form of self-expression. Low and behold, Will and Lou take a spontaneous trip to a tattoo shop. I could picture the whole thing perfectly in my head. One of my favorite scenes in the whole book.