A life worth living?

Cover of Me Before You
A review of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

"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."

This is the realization that Louisa Clark comes to after her comfortable, if boring, life is upended by the loss of her job at The Buttered Bun restaurant. Louisa is twenty-six and lives with her parents and her single-mother sister Treena. Her salary at the BB helped to support the family and her small town - whose sole claim to fame is the local castle - has few other job opportunities for an unskilled worker. Which is why she finds herself applying for a job that terrifies her. That of daytime companion/caregiver for a quadriplegic man.

Will Traynor was a powerful businessman who climbed mountains and bungee-jumped in his free time. Since being hit by a motorcycle he has spent the last two years confined to a wheelchair unable to walk or even feed himself. Not surprisingly he is a bitter, angry man when Lou enters his life.

To say the two do not initially hit it off is an understatement. Lou is at a loss as to how to help a man who seems determined to make everyone as miserable as he is. And Will has no use for one more person who will run his life for him. But their forced proximity allows them to reassess. In Louisa, Will sees possibility. Hers is a life unlived and he pushes and prods her into exploring something beyond her safe existence.  And in Will, Lou sees the man trapped into an existence he cannot bear. She does some prodding of her own, determined to prove to him that he can still have a life worth living.

In her New York Times review Liesl Schillinger starts with "when I finished this novel, I didn't want to review it; I wanted to re-read it". She's exactly right. Lou's first person narration is so disarmingly straightforward, the power and beauty of Jojo Moyes' story sneaks up on you. There is not one false note in this exploration of the choices people make about lives worth living (or not).