Thanks for coming back for another Saturday CC Book Club! This month we dug into Jojo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’. When I picked this one, I didn’t really know what it was about; it was becoming quite popular and the cover had a funky, almost 70’s-inspired font and that was enough for me. I’m actually happy that I didn’t know about the content when I picked it or I may not have read it at all. As always, consider this your SPOILER ALERT.
‘Me Before You’ is the story of Louisa (Lou) Clark. She’s 26, living in small-town England and working at a cafe until said cafe shuts down. Lou is working to support her family as her father was recently laid off and her sister is going back to school with her toddler son, so she needs to find employment quickly. The job agency sends her to Camilla Traynor, who is looking for a carer for her 35-year-old quadriplegic son, Will. Even though Lou has zero qualifications in caring, Camilla hires her. Lou’s surprised, but happy to be working until she meets Will. He’s absolutely sullen and totally depressed, and with good reason. Until he was struck by a car, Will lived a big life; traveling, adrenaline junkie adventures, making loads of cash and courting beautiful women were some of his interests. Will and Lou eventually begin to get along when, suddenly, Lou learns that Will plans to go to Dignitas, a center for assisted suicide in Switzerland in just a few short months. Lou makes it her mission to convince Will not to go through with it and the whole novel culminates in a trip to Mauritius to show Will how full his life can be as a quad. Of course, if you’ve read the novel, you know that even though they both love each other, Will decides to go through with it and the novel ends with Lou reading a letter from Will at a cafe in Paris. And me sobbing in bed at 12:30am.
I just finished this one last night, so the wounds are rather fresh. And yes, I do think ‘wounds’ is the appropriate term. ‘Me Before You’ has torn me apart. I am haunted by this book and think I will for a long time to come. When I picked it, I had no idea about the euthanasia. And even when that became part of the story, I kept telling myself that the book would end happily. Will would see that Lou loved him (and he her) and they would ride off on his motorized wheelchair into the sunset. Alas, the book was slightly more real and sent the message that love sometimes isn’t enough. I think that was the part that crushed me the most; even though Lou showed Will the best 6 months of his life (his words!!!) he couldn’t bear the idea of living as a quad. I’m usually quite practical, but I do have this all-healing view of love and take comfort in that.
I’m really interested in what you thought of Will’s choice. I’ve never really had an opinion on assisted-suicide and I’m by no means religious. The real-life cases I’m familiar with are always involving the elderly and I’ve been okay with euthanasia in those cases. However, this book has me absolutely up in arms. I’m actually still angry at Will and can’t help but see him as slightly selfish. I know that it is ultimately his choice, but Lou was offering to give him a full, happy life and love him despite all the things he hated about himself. They even had a talk about sex! I just think that 6 months wasn’t long enough and they needed to give their life together a chance before he made his decision. However, I applaud Lou’s bravery and respect in that when she finally does meet him at Dignitas, she doesn’t protest. She comes to him because that’s how he wants his life to end and she loves him enough to allow that. I guess I can’t really say how I would react in this situation, but the issue has definitely become more grey for me after reading ‘Me Before You’.
And now for our first pick of 2014: “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra. See you in the new year!