Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Me Before You"

Last month I read an interesting book that I wanted to write about on my blog. It's called Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Here's a synopsis of the book:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

In the story 35-year-old Will was in a motorcycle accident two years previously that left him a quadriplegic. He's had a difficult time transitioning from the handsome, active, successful Will to the now severely disabled and completely dependent on others for all of his physical needs Will. He's even attempted suicide a few times with his limited arm/hand movement.

Louisa becomes acquainted with Will after she loses her job and is hired by Will's mother for a six month position being a personal care assistant to Will. At first Lou and Will don't care for each other, but as time goes on they come to appreciate each other. One day Lou overhears Will's mother talking about Will's plan to go to Dignitas (a Swiss group that helps those with terminal illnesses and severe physical and mental illnesses to die assisted by qualified doctors and nurses). [Dignitas is a real place in Switzerland, by the way.]

Lou is horrified when she finds this out and makes it her mission to change Will's mind. She starts making a list of exciting things for her and Will to do together to show him that although his life is different, there's still much to do that's fun and enjoyable. He's fairly willing to try new things and go on outings with Lou (although he has no idea that Lou knows of his plan to go to Dignitas). As the weeks and months go by, Will and Lou share lots of new experiences together and do things they most likely wouldn't have done otherwise. Will exposes Lou to new books, movies and even the opera, while Lou exposes Will to new places and the fact that his life could still have meaning).

Will's "to do" list has large and small activities on it, but the ultimate, most exciting one of all is to take a "holiday" (or vacation as we Americans say!). When Louisa tells Will that she thinks they should plan a trip together she's not sure what he'll think of the idea, but Will's surprisingly on board with the idea. They include Nathan (Will's other care attendant) in the plans, choose a location (New Zealand, I think) set a date and work on the logistics.

Everyone's thrilled when Will decides to go on this vacation, because they hope Lou's plan is helping Will find more enjoyment in life so that he'll change his mind about the whole assisted suicide thing. I won't go any further in my recounting of the story so that I don't spoil the book for anyone who might be interested in reading it.

There were a few mistakes/inaccuracies in the book. For example, at one point the author said something about the C12 vertebrae. If you're familiar with the anatomy of the spinal column, you would know that there are only seven cervical vertebrae. Most people probably wouldn't notice something like this, but I have a little experience in this area. ;-) Overall, for this book being written by someone able-bodied, I felt it was reasonably well researched for the most part. The author seemed to understand the issues and complications that go along with paralysis fairly well, in addition to the limitations that a C5/C6 quadriplegic would have. 

One of my major complaints with this book was the complete lack of anything spiritual. God was never mentioned in the book, which was unfortunate, because God is everything! I know there is a God and that He is closely involved in the details of our lives. Some people are going to be mighty surprised one day when they find out just how near to us God always was. 
Another thing that bothered me was that most of the relationships in this book were rather superficial and lacked depth.

From what I've heard, I guess this book is pretty popular and it's even being made into a major motion picture. When I heard that this book was about a quadriplegic, my interest was immediately piqued and that was enough to get me to read the book. 

I have to confess that I didn't really care for the book, though, and I don't really understand why people think this book is so great. Of course, you'll have to read it for yourself and then form your own opinion about it, but for me, it was just fair.


Stephanie said...

Hi Heather - thanks for giving a heads up on this book! I hadn't heard of it before and I am looking forward to reading it. You are a very positive and spiritual person - that has helped you so much throughout your accident, recovery and coping with your current reality. I know your spirituality brings you much strength and hope but there certainly are folks out there with injuries such as yours who do not share the same faith. What would your thoughts be, outside of finding the Lord, to help those folks cope? I think it is applicable for all of us!

Anonymous said...

We just read this book for my book club and I brought you and your blog up in my discussion. I was very touched and moved by it and depressed at the decision Will made, even though I can understand it. It is great to hear your perspective on it.

One thing for your readers. Will was not paralyzed as the result of a motorcycle accident. A motorcyclist hit HIM while he was standing on a street corner. Will was not riding a motorcycle. While he enjoyed many travels and daring adventures the fact that he was just standing around and was hit by a careless driver make his injury, to me, seem that much harder for him to bear.

Renea Taylor said...

I was waiting for the ending! Haha

Legalmama said...

I actually kind of hated this book, and while I understand why a lot of people like it, there are many things that made me a little crazy. I thought Will was rather selfish, and quite egotistical. I think that if he knew that he was going to end his life no matter what, it was very selfish of him to allow Lou into his life the way he did. He used her to make his last few months more pleasant, without much thought to how she might feel when he ended his life. Selfish. I also thought he was quite small-minded about his "big" life. He lived a "big" life before his accident, big job, lots of travel and adventure, and he could not be satisfied with the small life he would be forced to live as a result of his accident. But he never even tried to explore living a life of the mind, he never gave any thought to trying to use his intellect and his many resources to try and live a happy life. It took him two years to find out that he could use a computer? No wonder he was miserable. I thought he didn't earn his ending. I think if he had tried a little harder, and not been so full of himself, I would have liked the book far more. But it just seemed so contrived, manipulative, and predictable.

DaddyBites said...

The book doesn't mention C12 vertebrae; it mentions WARD C12 in a hospital. It was a section of the hospital.

Post a Comment

I love getting feedback on my posts, so please leave me a comment!

If you have a question, feel free to email me at so that I can respond to you directly.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...