It took me forever to get into this book. Not because I didn’t like it or it didn’t draw me in right away, but because stranger after stranger would interrupt me on the subway, the bus, in restaurants, to profess their love of Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. It’s not your typical chick-lit or women’s fiction read. To my delight, I found it to be a story steeped in layers of vulnerability, grief, lessons of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and what it really means to let go.
Louisa Clark has just lost her waitress job at the Buttered Bun. She’s desperate to find work because she helps support her household, which consists of her mother, father, sister, and nephew. An employment agency places her at the Traynor estate, where she has been hired to be a companion for the Traynors’ thirty-something son, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident. Once a daredevil adventurist thrill-seeker, Will Traynor’s accident has left him with no will to live. What Louisa doesn’t know is that Will has made a reservation at Dignitas, an assisted suicide center in Sweden. He’ll be checking in at the end of the summer. Louisa’s real assignment is to help Will realize that there is much more to life, and that he should cancel his plans at Dignitas.
Louisa and Will, two misfits, brought together in the most curious manner, eventually warm up to each other through a series of laughable and uncomfortable events. Throughout her time as Will’s companion, she secretly discovers the Dignitas plan but keeps quiet and devises a host of events (urged on by her sister) meant to change Will’s mind and show him just how much fun he can have despite his condition. Unintentionally, she becomes the Amelia Bedelia of event planning. Something always goes awry. But it’s really through simple conversation and quiet afternoons that Louisa and Will share the most tender moments. A scene where she shaves his face will spur goose bumps as you feel the intimacy between the two. When Will presents Louisa with a pair of bumblebee tights for her birthday—just like she had when she was a kid—your heart will sing.
As their affection for each other deepens and strengthens, they explore how hard it is to accept the choices and decisions each makes that the other doesn’t agree with. For Louisa, it’s Will’s decision to go to Dignitas. For Will, it’s Louisa’s decision to not live her life fully through travel and adventure. We all have had friends and family make choices we disagree with. How exactly do we open our hearts to accept and support those decisions? Louisa and Will wrestle with the complicated feelings and thoughts that come from trying to be nonjudgmental and accept reality. They feel the power of love, learn forgiveness, and discover the complicated art of acceptance.
I now understand strangers stopping me, clutching their chests, and gasping, “It is just SO good. Just so good,” because I now do the same thing. This book will move you. It’s SO good. It’s just SO good.