Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My friend A has already announced our June book club pick, and when I tried to get Me Before You from the library, I was on a superlong waiting list. Thankfully, A was glad to loan The Chancellor and me her copy so we could bypass the waiting period. Now that I’m caught up with Book Club, I can focus on getting back on track with my reviews. And it’s becoming clear that there are certain kinds of character or story-oriented books that just don’t do it for me.
Louisa, or Lou, Clark is a bit adrift at 26. She has lost her job as a waitress at the Buttered Bun, and her family depends on her income. Her father is out of work, and her mother is caring for Lou’s ailing grandfather. Lou’s sister and nephew live in their crowded, squashed house, and her boyfriend Patrick is obsessed with marathoning and running. Her temp agency brings her into contact with Will Traynor, a former business executive and adventurer taken down by an accident that has left him a quadriplegic. Lou’s job is to make sure that Will doesn’t inflict any harm upon himself during the day. She accidentally overhears that he wants to die via assisted suicide, and she determines to show him that life is very much worth living.
The story was interesting, and so were the major characters. I thought it was for the most part an engaging read, but there were definite flaws in the writing that kept me from really enjoying the book. First, the death-with-dignity discussion was fairly shallow and melodramatic. I applaud Moyes for tackling the issue, but I think that the melodrama surrounding the Will-Louisa relationship really clouded a clearer and more honest unpacking of the issue at hand. Also, the point-of-view changes at the oddest junctures, so that we hear points-of-view from both of Will’s parents, his nurse Nathan, and Louisa’s sister Treena. Why? What does that do for the story? I felt disoriented from the narrative groove Moyes had established. Also, most of the minor characters exist as plot points to create conflict, and that’s just a bit lazy for my taste. Ultimately, while I liked the story okay, I thought there was too much manufactured drama and emotion for me to sincerely fall in love with it the way others have. Your own mileage may vary.