Monday, March 25, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
This novel by British writer Jojo Moyes has just been released in North America, and has been a smash hit in its native UK already.  The story explores the relationship between odd couple Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. When the very sociable Louisa loses her beloved job at a café, she gets another through the local job finding centre -- she will now be the caregiver for quadriplegic Will, a young man whose life was forever changed in a motorcycle accident.
Lou is small town through and through; the most excitement she has in her life shows up in her crazy outfits. Will, on the other hand, was a high powered businessman in London and an extreme sports fanatic, until his accident. They begin to develop a friendship, each becoming the best listener for the other. They connect despite their differences in lifestyle and experience. And there are moments when Lou (and the reader) forgets Will's disability as their relationship deepens.

But it's not only light and lovely. Moyes draws a strongly realistic picture of what quadriplegia means. Sudden pneumonia, a catheter, dependency, depression, frustration -- she makes Will into a deeply appealing character who is also suffering deeply. Lou begins to understand his struggle, even while trying to make him see that life is still worth living.

Woven inextricably into the tale is the spectre of assisted suicide. As Lou goes online to discover many chatrooms and websites for friends and carers of quadriplegics, she finds that people react differently to their injuries, and that many choose to end their lives by their own decision. Moyes is able to take this love story and turn it into a discussion of all these issues at the same time that she is developing strong, engaging characters and relationships.

This is a compulsive read -- funny in parts, light, sweet, yet not overly sentimental or mawkish. It deals with troubling issues and events and yet doesn't feel hopeless. But I must warn any interested readers -- you will want to be sure not to finish reading this in public.  Those last pages...well, let's just say that stock prices for Kleenex probably rose thanks to this book.
This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on March 21, 2013. Written by Melanie Kindrachuk, Librarian.

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