368 of 396 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2012
My heart was not prepared for those kind of feels... *sigh*
'The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life - or at least shoved up so hard against someone else's life that you might as well have your face pressed against their window - is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are. Or how you might seem to other people.'
Louisa's life is lackluster and she's completely content with 'playing it safe' at life. Not that she's ever allowed herself to contemplate how different things could possibly be. She goes to her job at the tea shop, she goes home to her windowless room at her parents house, and she occasionally spends time with her boyfriend Patrick who is far more concerned with his exercise regiment than he is with her. But when she loses her job at the tea shop she accepts a temporary 6 month position as a caregiver to a quadriplegic, Will Traynor.
Louisa and Will are complete opposites and the first few weeks of them knowing each other the quite truly hated each other. Will was oftentimes irrationally difficult and Louisa was ready to quit, but she stuck it out and slowly they developed an extremely touching friendship.
All I can say is that you make me...you make me into someone I couldn't even imagine. You make me happy, even when you're awful.I would rather be with you- even the you that you seem to think is diminished- than with anyone else in the world.'
Their blossoming romance was one of the most convincing I've read in a long time and was truly uplifting. They changed each other in massive ways in such a short period of time. Louisa gave Will happiness that he hadn't experienced for a very long time and Will gave Louisa the determination to do something with her life and not let it go to waste.
Calling this book chick-lit isn't doing this book any sort of justice; the subject matter is simply far too thought-provoking for that kind of label. The real meat of the story focuses on Will's decision to end his life by assisted suicide, which is the reason behind Louisa's 'temporary' position as he promised his parents he would give them another 6 months but no more. Convinced that he just needs something to live for, his parents hire Louisa who is bright, fun and talkative in hopes that she can convince him that he still has something to live for.
"You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible."
It was certainly a tough subject matter to read but was so well written and managed to actually make me laugh out loud at several parts. I loved Louisa and Will's wittiness and constant banter, it was the perfect addition to this poignant story. It was hard not to picture what it would be like if you were put into a situation such as Louisa and Will's. What you would do, if you would actually do anything different. All I know is that they both had an incredibly difficult decision to make and either way was bound to lead to heartache.
This was an incredible story that was so painful (in that crazy heart hurting kind of way) to read but I simply could not put it down. Me Before You is a heartbreaking story about finding what makes life worth living and making the decision whether it's truly enough. Definitely a new favorite and one that my heart won't be forgetting any time soon.
271 of 295 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
throw away your shades of gray books and read about a real romance- one where individuals ultimately valued each others' wishes and allowed the other party to grow. I began reading with much trepidation, but quickly learned to love the quirky characters of Lou and Will. This is a life affirming book. You will feel better after reading it.
374 of 420 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
(There's some spoilerish stuff in here)
I realize I am massively in the minority on this one. 99.9% of the people who have already read Me Before You absolutely disagree with me. Prior to reading, I read no other reviews. As I was aware of how rabidly people love this book, I wanted my initial opinion to be unadulterated. So when I finished reading, I started skimming reviews. A lot of positive reviews have valid points, especially ones that applaud Moyes' writing style (though I have issues with its tone and unoriginal bent, it does strike me as capable). Where positive reviews jive most with my thinking is their emphasis: Will's decision, how sad this book is, and the touching lessons we can learn from it. Huh. Gave me pause. I went back and thought, while reading, did I feel changed by this book? Has this in some way altered my perspective on living? I did give it a fair thought, and no is still the answer. For the people who did feel that way, I think that's great and I wish Me Before You could have resonated on so personal a level for me. But it just didn't.
So here I am, teetering out on a limb, amidst the blinding praise, contemplating why this was such a tepid read for me. Here's where I'm at...
Reason 1: The first half was intriguing, the second half was boring. I'm not gonna lie, I gobbled up the first 135 pages or so. It seemed fresh to me and had a bit of that self-deprecating humor that makes me wish I was British. But then it got increasingly predictable and trite, and I found myself skipping whole paragraphs, and then pages, just to get to the place where the main action cuts through all the expected lead-up. Lou describing every facial movement, every little mundane activity multiple times throughout the novel started wearing on my patience. When I kind of knew the trajectory of the story, the day-to-day stuff became superfluous. I skimmed the last 100 or so pages. And not a tear was shed. What a heartless witch, right? I think the problem is I just can't feel emotionally swept up in something I see coming from a mile away. Which makes sense to me. I'm curious how it doesn't for so many others.
Reason 2: Patrick. This guy had an "I'm all wrong for Lou" sign hung around his neck from the start, so all his character does is pop up in scenes to demonstrate how very wrong he is, how incompatible, self-centered, and inconsiderate he is. Pretty sure you can skip every moment he's in this book and in no way be lost or missing out. Pointless, uninteresting character. And frankly as a supposed foil to Will, I'm not sure fundamentally what makes them different. They're both domineering men, dictating Lou's choices. How "good" those choices are for her is kind of irrelevant if she's not ultimately the engineer of them.
Reason 3: The Traynors' supreme wealth. How comfy and convenient. I feel like the second an author adds in a rich character, it's so money can solve certain unsavory problems an author doesn't want to deal with. I usually find stories of poverty are more genuine and heartrending, because not only would a poor quadriplegic be severely disabled, he wouldn't be able to live in a comfy house and buy himself nice things to ease the dreary circumstances of his life. But maybe that's just me. Either way, money does what money does in this story-makes life easier, dismisses typical problems and saves the day. It felt like lazy storytelling to me. And it really made for a god-awful epilogue. I don't in any way mean to undermine Will's absolutely awful situation or discriminate because he's wealthy, I just think this would have all seemed more truly sad to me if there was no limitless fund for vacations or special equipment for quads or so much fortune for a character who is determined to wallow in his misfortune. I mean, guys, I'm naturally pessimistic. I think "the bright side" is just an area the dark side hasn't gotten to yet, but Will's level of self-entitled, pig-headed, unappreciative dick-baggery was tiresome. So naturally, Reason 4 is all about...
Will. And no, this isn't about his ultimate decision. I plead Oscar Wilde on that front ("We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices.") This is about his spoiled, bossy, alpha male personality. For someone who doesn't care to live, he won't shut up about how other people should live their lives. He's patronizing, and I don't find that particularly winsome or attractive in my male lead. I had sympathy for the guy, I don't think I'd be human if I didn't, but his sense of entitlement warped everything he said into a directive. But of course, no one can tell Will anything! No one can help Will! Be sensitive to Will! Walk on eggshells around Will! It's almost like (god don't smite me for saying it like this but...) his handicap is a distraction for a gendered subtext: All the women in my life can drive themselves crazy trying to help, trying to change me, but in the end I'm gonna do what I wanna do; "boys will be boys"; set me free and go live your life, with the help of this pile of money I'm giving you; you couldn't help me, but I can help you, because this was always just a power play. ....Do you see why I call myself a pessimist? Cause that's what I got from his character: You can't control me, but I can control you. That's the epilogue in 9 words. So no, I don't think he's romantic or charming. I don't find any of that romantic or charming.
Reason 5: Because I'm a woman. Lou had to be pushed to do things outside of her comfort zone by a male. After being brutally violated by males in her past, she needs another male to tell her she's worth something, that she doesn't have to play it safe. LOL OK You're kidding, Moyes, right,...right? What about the power of women? Why couldn't Treena be a comfort and a help? Or Lou's mother? Women shaming women and valuing the opinion of men over their own sex... it's a chick-lit tale as old as time. Men are saviors and women are either competitive and catty to one another or weak and unsupportive. Initially, Lou's lack of ambition didn't bother me. Probably because, career-wise, I'm in a similar situation and therefore have an inbred sympathy for all struggling 20-somethings. But once it became clear that Lou needed a man to pick out her damn career for her (literally, he actually said "why not be this?" and then she did it), my gender studies senses started tingling. Another not-so-women-friendly book.
Reason 6: Did Moyes write that, or did I read that in a Hallmark card last week? It's funny, I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being at the beginning of the summer and came across one of the most striking statements I've read in a long time: "If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all." It's entirely contrary to that of the most popular quote on Goodreads from this book: "You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible." It reminds me why reading chick-lit is often too vacuous to handle. It stumbles on its own thoughtless predictability, reduces itself to anonymous adages I've probably seen stitched on a needle-point pillow before. Maybe it's my disgruntled cynicism talking, but I think it's the author's "duty" (to use Moyes' preachy, morally binding word) to give readers something more than a generic motto on how one should or shouldn't live their life. Especially if you paid for this book. Costs way more than a $4 card or decorative wooden plaque. But when people write about how much they love this book, most point to that quote and others as lessons to be learned, as examples of how this book is life changing. I don't know-that word "duty" makes me skittish, and the phrase "as fully as possible" sounds pretty frickin' stressful. I see it this way: I'm going to live, and I'm going to die, and whatever happens in between is a series of choices that can't be undone, that are good and bad, "right" and "wrong," but nevertheless can't really be planned. I can't imagine being on my deathbed and having no regrets. Having no regrets means I knew what I was doing and the consequences of what I was doing as I did it, and to hell if I have that much foresight, if anybody has that much foresight. My life's not going to be lived "fully" because I only have one life and I can't perfect it. I'm not sure where "duty" comes into this.
Now, here's the part where I strain against the genre, where I shake the cage in frustration and expect this book to be what it is not, what it never intended to be, what it never will be. I usually get to this point when I can't reconcile a book's popularity with its less than original insights and my own aversion to it. But you can write a smashing hit on the back of canned phrases, nothin new there. And ultimately, I suppose a book should be judged for what it is, more than what it is not.
So I temper my reasons for disliking this book, and give (some) credit where (some) credit is due: Reading about a quadriplegic was a new experience for me, and I enjoy reading about things I don't know much about. The setting was cool. Who wouldn't like waking up, going out and seeing a castle every day? (well maybe people who don't like tourists, but still). I also think this book has a bit more of a practical edge than a sentimental one, which saved it from being sicky sweet and unbearable. And then I suppose the writing isn't terrible, it just needed some editing. But on the whole, Me Before You is predictable and not much of a love story. I think you could even make the argument it's not a love story at all. Weird book.
490 of 594 people found the following review helpful
Louisa Clark has lived in the shadow of her town's tourist attraction, the Castle, all her life. She has never left her small town, and has worked at the Buttered Bun cafe for so many years, she knows the in's and out's of all her regular customer's lives. So when the Buttered Bun is closed to make way for more Castle-associated tourist cafes, Louisa `Lou' finds herself jobless in the middle of Britain's recession. She has no schooling or qualifications other than waitress. She needs a job, and fast, because her parents, Alzheimer grandfather and single-mother sister rely on her paycheques. Her boyfriend, Patrick, can't help her out either - he's obsessed with the `Viking' marathon and fat-ratio-body-count zero-carbs dieting.
So when the job centre recommends Lou try for a job as carer to a quadriplegic, she reluctantly goes for the interview. But Lou really isn't qualified to `wipe bums' - she's not even very good at helping her mother take care of her grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer's. Lou's interview takes her to the affluent side of town, to the Traynor family mansion. The Traynor's own the Castle, are descendants of the original royal occupants. They are moneyed and infamous in Lou's small town, but she never knew about the troubles they've had at home . . . the eldest Traynor child, Will, was in an accident two years ago that has left him a quadriplegic. He has movement of his neck, but minimal control of his hands and fingers. Everything else is paralysed, and he is confined to a chair and needs 24/7 care, especially after a suicide attempt put the family on high-alert.
Lou doesn't think she's qualified to be Will's carer, at all. But Mrs Traynor is adamant that she does not want a nurse-maid for her son. She just wants him to spend time with someone who oozes joie de vivre, who will entertain and be a companion to him. Will already has a qualified nurse, a New Zealander called Nathan. Now he needs someone to be his friend - and the Traynor's think Lou fits the bill. She's chatty and quirky, dressing in colourful tights and sparkly gumboots. She's just the sort of positive influence Will needs in his life right now.
But Will Traynor is not the easiest person to get along with. He's bitter and depressed - constantly reminiscing about his life `before' and `after' the accident. He used to ski, bungee jump, rock climb and just generally travel the globe looking for the next adrenalin-rush. Now he is chair-bound and suicidal.
Lou has six months to prove her worth to the Traynor's and make a difference in Will's life. And what originally starts as an easy paycheque and cosy new job turns into a mission of hope. . .
`Me Before You' is the new novel from British author, Jojo Moyes.
I was hearing a lot about Jojo Moyes last year, thanks to her novel `The Last Letter from Your Lover'. Ms Moyes has been releasing books since 2002, and already had seven books under her belt before `The Last Letter' was released as her break-out hit in 2010. The novel won a slew of awards throughout 2011, including the UK's `RNA's Romantic Novel of the Year Award', and is now being adapted for the big screen. More than that though, I kept hearing whispers from my fellow book bloggers that `Last Letter' was something very, very special. Still, I didn't read it - God knows why. And then `Me Before You' came my way - the all-important next book to be released after Moyes's surprise hit. I had high expectations, based purely on previous book hype . . . and I've got to say, Moyes met and exceeded every single one of them.
Reading the blurb of `Me Before You', I thought I had a pretty good idea of where this book was going to go, and I did have my reservations. Purely judging a book by its cover (and blurb), I thought I had this novel pretty well pegged from the first page. But I was very, very wrong. Moyes surprised me at every turn, never more so than in how deep she delved into the `issues' of this novel, without ever preaching.
Will Traynor lived a full of adventurous life, until it was cut short one rainy London day. Now, in his early thirties, Will is a quadriplegic who needs round-the-clock care for his physical ailments, but for his mental road-blocks his mother has hired Lou Clark to be a companion to Will. Lou's contract will last up to six months, after which time Will has a decision to make about his life . . . he'll either find the will to live, or his family will let him go to Dignitas, an assisted dying organisation based in Switzerland.
In the beginning, Lou is none-the-wiser about Will's ultimatum. She reluctantly goes to her new job at the Traynor's plush mansion and grows to dislike Will and his curmudgeon behaviour. But slowly, very slowly, he starts to let a little of his old self seep in . . . Lou sees a charming and enigmatic young man, with strong opinions and a dried-up thirst for life. Lou also witnesses the many ways that Will's life has vastly changed from two years ago. She meets Will's ex girlfriend and his ex best friend. She stares at photos of Will standing tall upon a ski-slope and hears him tell tale of his trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. Lou finds it hard to reconcile that man with her wheelchair-bound charge. But Lou understands a thing or two about transformative events, and how hard it is to reconcile the `before' and `after'. Because Lou has her own personal tragedy and remembered history which keeps her in this small town, never to venture beyond the shadow of the Castle.
Will, likewise, comes to care for Lou. Very slowly he starts to see her as more than just a dumb waitress from the bad part of town. He encourages her to read the books from his personal library and begs her to leave their small town, to see Paris or Sydney, just expand her four walls. But when Lou discovers the real reason behind her short six-month contract, and Will's potential life-or-death decision, their time together becomes even more important. Lou becomes desperate to convince Will of the reasons to live, and she plans outings and activities to do just that.
Jojo Moyes is exploring a rather contentious issue - euthanasia. Going into this novel, I already knew where I stood on the topic of euthanasia - and that was that people should be allowed to die with dignity, on their own terms, and in their own time. But my stance was garnered from newspaper articles and raw, flat facts. In `Me Before You' Moyes really does put a face and emotion behind this issue. And it should be noted that the book is full of gray areas - Will has plenty of people in his life (including Lou) who do not agree with this potential decision to die at Dignitas. But Moyes digs - she delves and explores the myriad of reasons for Will's decision to live or die . . . and one of the reasons to stay is a powerful one - love.
But Moyes has certainly done her research, and in the book Lou trawls internet forums and speaks to other quadriplegics in her attempts at understanding Will. The potential diseases which could end his life, the various dangers of the body (regulating body temperature could be the difference between life and death). It's all very fascinating, if heartbreaking.
But this novel isn't just about Will and Lou. Moyes has peppered the book with a cast of lovable characters who enrich the story. There's Patrick, Lou's long-term boyfriend who has become a fitness fanatic, much to her chagrin. Lou's sister, a single mother to Tomas who dropped out of university to be a mother to him. Lou's parents, an affable duo who are struggling to keep their heads above water in Britain's recession. And then there's Will's family - his polished mother whose cracks are beginning to show, and unfaithful father who selfishly feels the strain of Will's condition. Moyes has certainly filled out Lou and Will's lives with this cast of characters - and she delves into the gray areas with these people too, when she provides certain chapters told from their perspective. We learn of Camilla Traynor's divided heart - her love for her son versus the condition which has turned him into someone she doesn't really know. I loved these little asides, especially because Moyes offers them up at exactly the moment when you think you have the character figured out - she then lets us pick around in their brain and read their perspective, know their struggles and illicit unlikely sympathy.
I did cry buckets in this book. I won't give anything away, but throughout parts of the book I was a blubbering mess. Moyes certainly plays the heart-strings with a deft pen, and she does keep you guessing until the very end. But as much as I cried throughout the book, by the last page I was taking deep, cathartic breaths and feeling better for having read `Me Before You'. Moyes pushed me to think about an issue I was already firmly decided on, more than that though, she gave an `issue' real heart and perspective. I loved `Me Before You' so much, that I rushed out and bought a copy of `The Last Letter from Your Lover' (and after that, I intend to read every single one of her backlist books too). I'd say be prepared for `Me Before You' - Moyes forces her readers to think and feel every awful, beautiful, heart-rending and chest-constricting emotion. Sublime and powerful.
91 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I loved, loved, loved this book until near the end. And then I hated it. In fact, I not only hated it, it made me furious!!
I can't believe that this author felt that the ending was in any way "romantic" or encouraging. Spoiler - don't read the following paragraphs if you don't want to know what happens.
I hated the ending not because it didn't end up HEA, but because it had no point!! What a waste of two lives. One who couldn't be like he used to be, so he ended his. And one who gave her love to a very selfish young man who couldn't even let her go without dragging her into his sordid end. Wow!! What a nice guy!
I feel that this novel is actually promoting suicide and depression. Instead of getting help for Will's obvious depression, the characters in the book don't even recognize that depression is "the" major problem. And instead of using the vast wealth available to them, Will's parents let him rot in his room for months and hope some inexperienced young lady will be able to "save" him. What about all the technology available these days to better the lives of people like him? Where was that?
There are many, many people who deal with life-altering circumstances and "choose" to live. I personally know of two people who had more problems than Will did. (Both of them were AB people before their injuries. One can't see or hear but is married, travels and has a job. The other is a quadrapalegic with almost exactly the extent of injuries that Will had. He went to college, got a degree and helped others who had similar issues. He is married too.) AND, big AND, they didn't have endless money and resources to make their life easier.
This wasn't a story about someone who was in the final stages of cancer, or who was in the throes of death. This was a story about a very depressed and selfish young man who didn't care about anyone but himself. He took advantage of a system that is intended for people in who have NO hope and for whom death is imminent. Not those who feel that they don't have the quality of life they used to have so they want to end it. That is just plain old suicide!! Assisted or not. If this were a true story, the parents and girlfriend would probably have been arrested. (At least in England or the United States.)
I am so disappointed in this book. Even if the two main characters didn't stay together, there still could have been a lot of value in the story to show that love makes a difference. Quality of life isn't all about what we can do or have, but we can give and do for others!!!
297 of 369 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2012
Never has 480 pages sailed by so quickly. The main character is sweet, endearing, and adorable. Her kooky family members are entertaining secondary characters. And the love that develops between Lou and Will is quite profound. It builds very, very slowly and blossoms into one of the most believable loves I've seen in fiction. Because it takes Lou so much time to realize her feelings, the love is that much deeper and more real.
Lou has her own past experiences and the lead up to that reveal is very subtle. I thought it was handled well.
I was glad that some other voices were included. Lou joins an online forum to help her learn about disability and meets some quads who don't want to die. I wish that had been further developed, since we never get to meet a character who expresses that view.
There's a point of view oddity. Almost the entire 480-page book is told from Lou's first-person point of view, but there are five individual chapters scattered throughout where other characters take on the narrative (Will's mother, Will's father, Lou's sister, and Will's main carer). This was extremely disconcerting. Though it was interested to get those characters' takes on things, it felt random, unplanned, and the first time it happened I had no idea it was only for one chapter, so at the next chapter I couldn't tell who was narrating for quite a while until I figured out we were back to Lou.
The other strange thing about these point of view changes is that Will never got to speak. For a love story, how very bizarre that the only time Will was in control of the narrative was a third person prologue. After his accident, he has no direct voice and the other characters all speak and think about him. This may have been a conscious choice, since Will's biggest complaint in the book is that people do not listen to him, don't take into account what he wants.
And then the biggest problem. I find the quad-wants-to-die plot extremely tiresome. It reeks of ableism: "I, an able-bodied woman with no experience of disability shall write about a quadriplegic because I read about it in the news. What should I write? How about how miserable his life must be?"
I, also an able-bodied woman, have no authority to say that's not true. What I can say is that I've known quads, two of them being at the same injury level as Will and one higher. None of them have wanted to commit suicicde. They expressed to me how grateful they were to be alive and emphasized how they have grown from the experience. One told me that he had learned so much from it that his life was better than it had been. If you're going to ever read any book where the plot is quad-wants-to-die, this is the one to read. It does present a fairly balanced view of the issue. I'm reluctant to recommend any book with this plot, but I did find myself moved by it. If you do read it, I urge you to remember that whatever it might seem like from an outside point of view, many people with quadriplegia are living happy and content lives. I've never met a quad who wanted to kill himself. I know that some do, certainly. But every novel with a quad character seems to have this exact same plot, so we have plenty of those narratives already. I wish we had more variety in these narratives.
I was reluctant to read the book knowing this was the plot, but I am actually glad that I read it. I enjoyed it, found the writing good, and would recommend it with the above caveat.
The biggest complaint I have is definitely Will's lack of voice and perspective.
52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
My stepfather, like Will was rendered a C5-6 quadriplegic at the age of 18. The doctors gave him six months to live. He chose life. He worked intensely for over two years in physical therapy resulting in such increased mobility that he was more akin to a paraplegic with use of his arms and hands. He married my divorced mother with five daughters and raised us girls as his own. He went to vacations, weddings, bar mitzvahs and saw 13 grandchildren being born. He died of pneumonia at the old age of 75. He lived a full happy life and would not have traded one day of it to Beatle to walk. Will was a coward and selfish and as such missed true happiness, even for a short time.
47 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I admittedly gave up on this book at the half-way point. Since I was reading this for pleasure, there is really no reason to continue, is there? Because that would be work - and I already read enough things for work that aren't pleasurable.
Am somewhat bewildered by the raving reviews. Did we get the same book? Is there another version? I read the Kindle version...can't imagine it being that different?
The reviewers state that it is beautifully written and eloquent. Which is puzzling. The writing style is basic English, rarely uses difficult words, and simplistic in style. I'd describe it as conversational. Poetic? Eloquent? It's not. Serviceable? Adequate? Pretty much. Nor is it precise. Rambles a bit. And there's a lot of repetition. You can skim whole pages and not miss a thing.
I'm also not certain that the chick-lit genre can handle the complexity of euthanasia. Or for that matter, being paralyzed. And this is definitely chick-lit. It's written in the same breezy conversational style as Sophie Kinselle's novels and Helen Fielding, although Helen Fielding is the better writer. It neither has the wit nor subtly of Fielding. Liane Moriarty, the writer of The Husband's Secret and What Alice Forgot - is a chick-lit writer who has somewhat successfully broken out into the contemporary women's literary genre. And her style fits this subject matter far more adeptly than Ms. Moyes. I can't help but wonder how she would have handled it? Far more eloquently, I'd imagine. So too, would John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, who also handled a difficult topic but with compassion and poetry. All of which are lacking here.
The story? A wealthy 32 year old man, as the result of a motorcycle accident, is confined to a wheelchair. He was run over by a motorcycle while hailing a cab to work. Now, he is paralyzed from the waist down, with little to no movement in his arms. His parents have hired a full-time night-time nurse, named Nathan, who has the days off, except for lunch, and takes one or two nights off a week.
During the day - they've hired various care-givers who have not worked out. At one of these points, Will attempted to commit suicide. At wits end, his wealthy upper-class parents have agreed to let him do it after six months. He must give them six months to convince him to live. In order to accomplish this herculean task they hire Lou, an uneducated, immature, ditzy, unreliable, inexperienced and wet-behind-the-ears 26 year old, who acts as if she were 16. They do so, because, all evidence to the contrary, that Lou is a bright and cheery person. Granted they have no way of knowing that Lou can't even be bothered to help her mother care for her Granddad. Lou is only there because her job counselor told her it was either this job or pole dancing. (Which was mildly amusing. Because, seriously, pole dancing?)
Keep in mind that Will's family is WEALTHY. We're not talking poor, working class, or middle class, but wealthy. Will's mother is a magistrate. Will was a wealthy and successful corporate attorney specializing in hostile takeovers (or at least that is what was implied...it's not quite clear.) He enjoyed adrenaline sports, and cavorting with his lovely girlfriend. Now that he's a quadparapelgic, he's not enjoying much of anything. Mainly because Will's sources of pleasure were bungee-jumping, being extremely busy, riding his motorcycle, and corporate take-overs. He really didn't have any meaningful relationships, including with his own family. The man was suffice it to say, rather shallow. And being confined to a wheelchair hasn't done a whole lot to change that. Plus, he appears to be surrounded by idiots.
Lou in direct contrast is your stereotypical working class gal. Almost no education to speak of. Hasn't read a book in years. Or been on a computer, which I found difficult to believe - considering there are homeless people and people in third world countries on Facebook. I half expect to see her smacking gum.
Why Will's wealthy family decided to hire Lou is a mystery. While I realize that many people who are disabled do in fact suffer from inept care. My grandmother was in an assisted care facility, and the management was so horrific, that my mother moved her to another one. And I know that there are inept caregivers out there, just as there are inept writers who somehow get published, and inept doctors, waitresses, actors, artists, janitors, teachers, and lawyers...it's a fact of life.
But, they are depicted as wealthy. Will attempted suicide. Why didn't they get an experienced caregiver, the best that money could provide, who had a background in psychology? Or at least someone who shared Will's interests and background? For a companion? Or gadgets to assist Will? Such as the gadgets that Christopher Reeves and Stephen Hawkings had. Couldn't they have enrolled him in a quad support group? Actually hospitals usually require individuals who attempt suicide to join a support group and be monitored. At least that's the case in the US. It's make more sense than hiring Lou.
This is not helped by the fact that Lou is written as rather dumb and unimaginative. And incompetent. Which poses a question - why do chick-lit writers feel compelled to write dumb heroines? Male writers don't appear to do this as often as female writers do, which I find fascinating. Is this an internalized sexism?
Add to this, sections that defy logic. For example? When Lou discovers Will is burning up, guessing that he must have a fever, she gives him a percocet, a pain pill - for pain. He has a fever. She's just given him a narcotic. Without knowing if he's taken any. Nathan arrives and asks why she didn't give him antiboitics, as stated in the manual. Lou states she had no clue. (Lou has neither street smarts nor book smarts. Or any common sense for that matter.) When she tells him that she gave Will a pain pain, he says that's the equivalent of giving him an M&M. Okay, it's a narcotic, not exactly the same thing.
Later, we learn that Lou has not been inside a library since she was 7, because she forgot to return a Judy Blume book? And..has no knowledge of computers - in 2008? I find this difficult to believe - homeless people and people in third world countries were posting online in 2008. Then, Lou decides to take Will to a racetrack, of course she hasn't researched it or even driving over to see if it would work out - because that would require intelligence. She parks, and Nathan and Will permit her to do so, on a muddy grassy parking lot - which they obviously can't get Will across without sinking into mud. The whole sequence that follows is cringe-inducing. To get Will back into the car and home, she has to get the help of a bunch of drunken army guys - who aid her because she's told them Will is an Iraq vet (I've seen an army vet, with no legs, confined to a wheelchair, begging in a subway, how he got down those steps, I don't know.) As a reward, she kisses all of them on the lips. The very next chapter, we get a lengthy and somewhat rambling tale of how she was molested by a gang of boys as teen, and how her sister found her alone, naked and shivering. (I'm not sure from the passage if she was raped or molested.) This is to explain why she no longer takes risks. Such as trying a new job. Except it doesn't explain that. Actually it seems to come out of nowhere and makes little sense. Why would someone who'd been molested in that manner, wear a mini-skirt to a race course, and kiss a bunch of drunken army guys on the lips? You'd think that would be traumatic, not dressing up to go to a violin concert.
I gave up after the violin concert - or rather the scene in which Lou decides to chew off Will's collar tag during the concert. They are sitting in the front row. He's in a wheel-chair. Everyone can see them. It has got to be the most cringe-inducing idiotic sequence that I've read in a novel. It makes no sense. And I'm guessing it's there as slapstick, except it does not work.
There is a chapter, wedged in between all of this, in Will's mother's point of view - most likely there to explain why she hired Lou (which was necessary) and why she's willing to let Will choose to die in six months (which wasn't necessary and sort of obvious). Camilla, his mother, isn't that interesting. The writer throws out a negative stereotype of a cold but accomplished female magistrate then drifts back to the story. Personally, I think there was potential there - and if the writer was serious about her subject matter, she'd have developed the mother and Will's family more than she did.
Outside of Lou, no one is really developed in this story and the writer relies a great deal on cliche and stereotype. The working class is depicted as loud and somewhat boorish, the rich as cold and removed. Will, amongst the few half-way likable characters, is rather shallow and boilerplate. The other male characters, Nathan, Will's care-giver, Patrick, Lou's boyfriend, her father and Will's father barely register, each fit yet another stereotype or cliche. There's no depth. And as a result, it's difficult to care.
Lou, herself, feels like a cliche. I've seen this character in one too many books. Of the one's I've read, Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones and Doctor Who's Rose Tyler (sorry TV show not book) are perhaps the best written and most well-rounded. All the others feel like weak photocopies. As if the author is copying, but failing to quite capture the original's charm. While Bridget Jones came across as funny and warm, as well as self-deprecating, Lou comes across as whiny and self-involved, and a bit silly.
Great characters make novels not plots, although a decent plot does help. If I don't believe in the characters (please note I don't necessarily have to like them) and don't care about them...then the book feels hollow and lacks substance. The characters become stick figures. The plot pointless. And the theme hollow.
109 of 135 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Speaking as person in a wheelchair, with a job, a life, a passport full of stamps from interesting trips and not nearly enough free time to do half the things on my list, this book makes me want to smack my head into a wall for the stupid damage that it does to the public perception of people in wheelchairs. Ugh.
And, yes, you can of course, say that this book is not about people in wheelchairs, it is about a particular character in his particular wheelchair, but seriously, where are the books about people in wheelchairs living interesting, not horrible lives, that rack up thousands of reviews on Amazon? (There's Moving Violations - great book, nowhere near as popular as this wretched thing.) And, how many movies can you think of where the person in a wheelchair is either the villain or the subject of pity? Now, how many where they're a regular character? How many where they're the hero?
... And this book gets so many rave reviews.
To reiterate, ugh.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read this novel when my mom was critically ill in the hospital, while curled up in a chair beside her bed, not knowing if she would live through the night. I did not think anything could distract me from the fear and grief I was feeling - but this book did. It took me into a world that was different from mine but still spoke right to me; about a young woman dealing with pain and loss and love and fear all at once; laughing and having adventures in the midst of the most devastating injury imaginable. It was a book about what makes life worth living, and how to make your life count. But it wasn't preachy or saccharine. I don't read romance novels, I only occasionally read chick lit; but I loved every single syllable in this book. In case Ms. Moyes ever reads her Amazon reviews, I want her to know that this book came to me when I desperately needed it; it brought me joy and hope and showed me how all of those things can exist even in the midst of grief and loss. It did just what I think the best literature is meant to do. It makes you feel something powerful, and it shows you a new lens through which to view your life. I am begging everyone I know to read it. I can't imagine reading anything that moves me more this year. Thank you, Ms. Moyes. (And please get your earlier novels published on the Kindle or back in print, so I can get those too - I already picked up Last Letter from Your Lover and that's my next read.)