Tuesday, March 5, 2013

{read: love story} Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

This unusual love story between a 26-year-old unemployed cafe worker-turned-caregiver and a 35-year-old quadriplegic is delightful, funny, warm, and honest. Jojo Moyes has crafted characters that you root for in Lou, the cafe worker who will take the job as a caregiver only if it doesn't involve wiping bums, and Will, who ended up as a quadriplegic two years ago after a motorcycle slammed into him on a rainy day.

Will used to rule the corporate world and led a fast-paced life filled with wheeling and dealing during the day and women, travel, and vacations abroad on his off time. The switch to confinement in a wheelchair, only able to move his head and one hand a few inches, is at times unbearable.

Lou has become the sole breadwinner for her family now that her father's laid off, since her mother stays home to take care of her grandfather, who's had a stroke. Lou's boyfriend, Patrick, is obsessed with his marathons and triathlons and can barely spare a minute for her.

Somehow Will and Lou manage to connect and become unlikely friends, despite the differences in their lives. When Lou finds out that Will's decided to end his life in six months, with the grudging support of his parents, she sets out on a mission to convince him that life is worth living. Will she succeed?

I loved this story because the characters were so fully developed and realistic. Lou's family is a mess and struggling to get by, Will's family is a mess even though they're rich, and they're each just trying to get through the day — until they discover that there can be more to life than surviving and living small, safe lives.

This book is about more than just falling in love. It's about the complex relationships within families, the responsibilities of children toward parents and parents toward children, and the challenges of living with serious disabilities. Yet while this sounds weighty, Moyes handles it with ease and tells a story so compelling that you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. You'll recognize pieces of yourself somewhere in here, whether it's as a parent, a child, a person falling in love, or someone trying to figure out what she wants in life. I didn't want to put it down, and yet I wanted to leave the last 100 pages unread so that it wouldn't be over. This is the second great book I've read in 2013. (The first was The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell.) 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2012)
My rating: 5 stars

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