Me Before You - Jojo Moyes This review was originally published at StoryCircleBookReviews:
http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/mebeforeyou.shtml


A beautiful, heartbreaking love story. The emotional ambience of this novel is on a par with Romeo and Juliette, although the synopsis is nothing like the Bard’s homage to the juvenile Verona lovers. In fact, the maturity of both protagonists, the agonizing visceral cognition behind their decisions makes the novel much deeper and infinitely sadder, closer to the modern reader’s core. I don’t cry when I watch Romeo and Juliette. I cried when I read this book.
The protagonist Lou is a twenty-seven-year-old woman from a poor working family in a small town in England. Single and still living with her parents, without a profession or an ambition, Lou takes a job as a caregiver to a quadriplegic man, Will, a few years older than herself.
He can’t be more unlike her. In his previous life, Will was a brilliant financial shark, handsome, erudite, and wealthy. International deals and extreme sports, risky travels and beautiful women comprised his elite world until two years ago, when a freaky auto accident in front of his home put a rude stop to it all and rendered him totally disabled, dependent on others for everything.
The six months Lou and Will spend together, which account for the bulk of the book, forced them both to explore each other’s social and personal zones. Their mutual emotional journey, from antagonism to acceptance and understanding, widened their horizons, enriched their lives, and irrevocably changed them both. While their two different realms began to mesh, their souls awakened, blooming into the all-consuming love too late for a happy ending.
The author’s power of description paints vivid pictures of the locations where the action takes place: Lou’s shabby home, Will’s expensive villa, the tropical island resort, but the appearance of the characters is blurry. Although Lou’s propensity for gaudy clothing makes her into a brightly-clad silhouette, I couldn’t visualize her face. Neither could I see Will, except for his wheelchair, which defines him. Both protagonists seem ordinary on the surface, but their emotional landscapes are glaringly naked, capturing my heart in the painful clutches of empathy.
The novel touches on several topics – family dynamics and class distinctions, hope and grief –but it concentrates on one controversial theme: euthanasia. When is it allowed? Who makes such a lethal decision? Is love enough to avert the tragic end? Is it a tragic end after all, when life becomes unendurable? Every character in the story faces this dilemma. Everyone has an opinion, and often those opinions clash, adding multiple layers of tension to the story. And the author is never didactic; she invites the reader to contemplate the pros and cons and make their own judgments.
Despite the profound pathos of the story, its life-affirming conclusion feels unmistakable to me. Written in a simple and masterful language, Me Before You is one of the best novels I’ve read in a while.