While I read a lot, there are times that I “miss” a book that I really want to read when it comes out in hardcover. It’s often one that I discover here on Bookreporter.com from a review or some promo copy. With best intentions, it slips further and further down my pile until I see news that the paperback is being released, which gives me another opportunity to move it to the top of the pile to read and share my thoughts. This is what happened to me with ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. A few chapters in, and I could see why this was a much-buzzed-about --- and loved --- book in hardcover.
Louisa Clark, known to her friends as Lou, is a twentysomething young woman who takes a job as a care assistant for a 35-year-old man named Will Traynor. Will is a quadriplegic after being hit by a motorbike. He is handsome, bright and very angry. Trapped in his body, he longs to be able to enjoy life the way he once did. To Lou, he’s cantankerous, annoying and willful. As she needs a job so much, she is intent on being the best caregiver she can be while also trying to figure out some of the mysteries that are unspoken about Will and who he is now, as well as who he was before. She never knew Will from “before.”
In many ways, Lou is what Will needs. At the start, this is just a job. Will’s unpleasantness is regarded as a bore, but nothing different from what an employer might expect. But soon, Lou has cracked through Will’s armor and stolen a piece of her heart. At the same time, Will is making a choice that Lou cannot live with, so she embarks on changing his mind.
I loved the premise, the setup, the characters and the setting. It’s full of emotion without becoming too precious or sweet. This descriptive line sums it up well: “What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?” Can you see the discussions at book clubs and dinner tables over that premise?
By the way, I had the pleasure of hearing Jojo speak at a conference in late June. During her talk, I knew that I was in the presence of a gifted storyteller. The book is just a joy!