Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

One of the most rewarding outcomes of belonging to a book group is the impetus to read outside your comfort zone. One of the members of the Gables Book Club is a hospice nurse and so suggested and led the discussion of Me Before You.  It is probably not a book I would have read without this stimulus.

The book has but a few characters, but their voices are strong and developed. Louisa Clark has been working at a café in the shadow of a castle in a tourist village in England. As a primary breadwinner for her familial unit, the puts an undue amount of pressure on her to find another position quickly. Louisa lives with her parents, her grandfather, and her sister who is a single mother.

Will Traynor has it all - a wonderful job, a gorgeous girlfriend, and penchant for adventure travel. He has climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro, hiked Yosemite, and explored exotic locations like China and Kenya. Then his world changes one morning when he is struck by a motorcycle on his way to work. He is a quadriplegic who has endured mental depression, physical therapy, and a life confined to a wheelchair watching movies. His mother, Camille, looks to hire a companion for him to help ease the depression and perhaps convince him that self-determined death is not the answer. Will's father has basically given up and retreats to a mistress. Nathan is the medical aide, who helps with the daily routine and manages his medicinal life. 

Lou(isa) is hired to become that companion for a six month tour of duty. Will maintains a tough exterior, but soon succumbs to the wit, humor, and care of Lou. She plans excursions and even a major travel adventure for him. Unfortunately, he gets ill and cannot go, but that won't stop her planning. As she pours so much energy into cultivating a good life for Will, Lou begins to distance herself from her inattentive boyfriend. Her life really is a series of unfortunate consequences. And then she overhears a conversation that Will is determined to go to Dignitas to end his life. As she attempts to deal with this, the reader shares in her struggles and ponders the dilemmas that she feels.

The theme of this book that touches so many lives. Is it right to end a life that will never be fulfilling to the person living it? It was well written and thought provoking and as would be expected, fueled a lively discussion. Moyes writes with a pen skilled in the journalistic way. She presents facts, but gives them a face and voice. It was a very good read and one that will come back with resonance as the reader revisits the problems exposed in this novel.