Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Me Before You" book review

“Me Before You” is a lovely book written by Jojo Moyes. I initially resisted reading the book, about the relationship between a young woman afraid to soar and a former master of the universe turned paraplegic. Let me count the reasons why. I’m a former investment banker who doesn’t like soppy silly romances that are politically correct and sensitive. I’m a busy mom with a stack of books to read that reaches my ceiling. I don’t like to confront the challenges of life unless I need to, including disability and fear.

I was wrong.

The book dropped into my life literally the day I decided to read more new books and less old. How is that for a cliché? My first thought on reading the description was using that same word: escaping clichés would be impossible.

I was wrong.

To sum, Louisa desperately needs a job. The book is British in tone, which I find cute since my dad is British and I read all of his mom’s books (like James Herriot) when I visited each summer. And this book takes you to a very defined but narrow world (but one familiar to me as above). Will meanwhile was injured when hit by a motorcycle. And this factor is key as I first thought he was being reckless and riding a motorcycle when hit… which would create a different story. Louisa is hired to care for him then finds out he is trying to die.

Again, this narrative could easily fall into cliché. But Moyes navigates it. There are a few obvious leading realities and unbelievabilities, but she gets past them. Throw in a loser boyfriend, struggling parents and an annoying sister who does all better and our heroine definitely has her challenges cut out for her.

Will’s parents struggle, as does his sister, with his disability. This part of the book perhaps most struck me as a mother. We try so hard, don’t we? But sometimes we can’t save a family member and in trying we get in our own way. How to separate the pain of today from the promises of yesterday?

And that’s where Louisa comes in. She’s hopeful and cheerful; she tries but lacks confidence and ambition. Frustrated in his own restrictions, Will pushes her to do better in the world he’s lost. Where his family can’t reach him, an outsider does.

This book is an empathetic look at how to handle someone facing restrictions and struggling with the will to live. I didn’t know much about quadriplegics nor, honestly, did I want to; that they’re subject to seizures and bedsores, that some can feel sensations and others can’t, that they can’t moderate temperature organically and how many want to die. Moyes did the research.

I am not the audience for the book but I love it and tore through it in a few days. We all eventually deal with those we love having physical and mental restrictions brought about by age, health, bad luck or circumstance. This book is a starting point for dealing. But it’s also so much more. This book is beautifully written. I told my own mom (recovering from two strokes) about it and she commented that it had to be amazing to reach me as I’m more of an action and denial person than one to read such a potentially depressing book. Moyes pulled off a coup with this one and deserves the praise and audience.

I’d especially recommend this book for parents or others suffering through a loved one debilitated. Do we recognize those in that position as still the same person or do we treat them as disabled (or old, sick, less)? How many of us can meet the challenge of dealing with a child (or parent) debilitated instead of fighting first with our own demons?

This book made me a better person. And it’s beautiful in its language and imagery.

No comments: