I have finished the 75th book for the book challenge. It was Me Before You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes.
This is a very unconventional love story. And it is a rather controversial book. It is the story of a young woman, Louisa Clark, a waitress in a diner, who becomes unemployed. She needs a job and tries her hand a a number of different jobs, unsuccessfully. Then a job of caregiver to a quadriplegic man becomes available for six months. She is hesitant to take it, but since it does not involve skilled nursing but is more a companion job, she decides to take it. It is only for six months, after all.
The man is 35-year-old Will Traynor. He was formerly a high-powered business executive and engaged in many outdoor activities until he was left paralyzed in an accident with a motorcycle. He is rather distant and sullen. Louisa is at first scared of him and keeps her distance, too. She hides in the kitchen of the annex of the large home where Will lives with his parents, spends her time cleaning, takes her lunch at the bus stops, and generally tries to avoid Will. But eventually she and Will get used to each other. Will has skilled nursing aid, a man called Nathan, who encourages Louisa to engage Will in conversation.
Louisa does try to talk to Will. Their banter is often sarcastic. They seem to “get” each other. Each day they become more and more comfortable with each other. Will has tried to kill himself. Louisa is supposed to prevent that from occurring again. Will’s former girlfriend and his best friend come to visit. Will goes into his bedroom and manages to knock all his photographs off the counter in a fit of anger. Mrs. Traynor, Will’s mother, is displeased that Louisa did not prevent Will from doing this.
Louisa overhears Mrs. Traynor and Will’s sister talking. Will has given them six months and then he will go to Dignitas in Switzerland to take his own life. The Traynors have agreed. Louisa decides that she will work to change Will’s mind about committing suicide. She starts to plan activities to show him that he can live a full life even though he is paralyzed.
The first activity she plans is an outing to a horse race. Will despises horse racing. The outing is a disaster. Louisa is very discouraged. But Will also wants to broaden Louisa’s horizons. He has tickets to go to a classical concert. She has never been to a classical concert. Louisa and Will attend the concert. Louisa loves the concert and Will has a splendid time. They also go on outings to the castle in the town.
Louisa decides to move in with her boyfriend, Patrick. Will is very upset by this because he feels that Patrick is very limiting for Louisa. Patrick is a fitness trainer and is very focused on training for a Viking contest. He has no other interests. Louisa has been with him for seven years. Will tries to get Louisa to become interested in going to college and traveling.
Will’s former girlfriend and his best friend are getting married and they invite Will to the wedding. Will decides to go and Louisa goes with him. Louisa drives him to London and they attend the wedding. They stay the night in a hotel there and both get drunk. They share an intimate moment. Louisa does not change Will’s tubes and Will gets an infection, but he recovers quickly.
Louisa plans a great trip for Will, Nathan, and herself to the United States, to California. There will be white-water rafting and parachuting. It will be a spectacular holiday. But just as they are about to leave on the holiday, Will comes down with pneumonia. He is very sick and they cannot go. When Will is better, Louisa asks her friends on the message boards where she can take Will on short notice. They suggest Mauritius. So Louisa, Nathan, and Will go to Mauritius.
In Mauritius, Louisa has a wonderful time, as does Will. He goes swimming and sits on the beach. Louisa goes scuba-diving at Will’s insistence. During a storm, Louisa and Will spend the night together in bed holding each other. Louisa professes her love for Will. She tells Will she knows about his plan to go to Dignitas. He tells her that he still plans to go ahead with his plan. Louisa becomes very angry that her love is not enough for him to live.
They return home but Louisa quits her job. She hides in her parents house. Reporters besiege the house; they have heard about what Will plans to do and want her take on the “story.” Mrs. Traynor calls Louisa and wants her to go to Switzerland. Louisa says yes. She must say goodbye to Will. Louisa goes to Switzerland. She lays in bed with Will for a long time and they talk about her future and their life together. Will tells her that the past six months were the best of his life but he still must end his life. Louisa understands.
Louisa goes to Paris after Will’s death. Will left her money to attend school and also money and a letter saying he wanted her to go to Paris and have important experiences. Her mother has kicked her out of the house, but she is now enrolled in college. She has broadened her horizons, like Will wanted her to. Will made a difference in her life, just as she made a difference in Will’s life.
This book is controversial because it condones the use of physician-assisted suicide. It presents both sides of the argument. It presents quadriplegics who are content with life as well as Will who wants to end his life. In this book, Will does take his life and his family is not prosecuted for helping him. I think this was the right decision. He was in his right mind and it was not a decision taken lightly. It was his choice. I could understand it. I felt bad for Louisa. I wanted her love to be enough for Will, but it couldn’t. But this was a good book. It really made you think about life and death and life with disabilities.