The Wednesday Morning Book Group met to discuss Me Before You , by Jojo Moyes on June 21st.
***PLEASE NOTE BEFORE CONTINUING THAT THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS***
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes is classified as a contemporary romance novel, or a Women’s Lives and relationships book, a tag that rankles me, but the book is really much more than that. After a thorough discussion among members, my personal opinion of the book changed, swayed by the opinions of those that felt strongly about the book’s real message.
Will Traynor is a young man who has become a quadriplegic after having suffered a car accident two years prior to the start of the novel. Louisa Clark is a young woman, in between jobs and a little lost in life, who takes on the task of paid carer for Will, charged with keeping him company and improving his mood. It is of course, not entirely disclosed to Louisa at the start that her purpose is far more important than just making tea at opportune points in the day, though she finds out soon enough that she must work especially hard to keep her charge positive and upbeat.
To do this, Lou plans all sorts of activities and outings, some more successful than others. It should be noted that Will is not exactly the easiest person to please. Prior to his accident, he was a high-flying jet-setting risk taking wonder-boy, complete with a highly lucrative career in Mergers & Acquisitions and a Barbie doll girlfriend. While he can no longer partake in many of the activities that used to occupy his schedule, he does still have a highly functioning mind, and this seems to be both a blessing and a curse for him. The group agreed that Lou’s job as carer for Will was very difficult, that it would take a very special sort of person to stick with the job. Louisa is that special someone, as written by Moyes. She’s a free and friendly spirit, hampered only by her family’s financial woes. She jumps in to Will’s care, and, once the true nature of her position is revealed, does not shy away but rather increases her impact, in vain hopes of changing his mind.
A large portion of our discussion concerned the decision that Will had made about his life before Louisa came into it, and the decision he maintains despite the joy he finds in Louisa’s company. Will has decided to undergo clinical suicide, or assisted suicide at a facility in Switzerland because he feels that his life will never be the life he wants now that he is a quadriplegic. At the time of the movie made from the book, there were protests by advocates for disabled persons that this represented yet another negative, debilitating view of life as a disabled person. The book, unlike the movie, includes great deal of alternative perspectives, and does not treat the decision lightly. The group agreed that this was a very subjective decision, that this choice was made because Will was the person he was. Louisa seems by the end to come to terms with the fact of Will’s choice, and the final passage of them together is a real tearjerker.
Moyes wrote the book after learning about a real-life case of a 23-year old Rugby player that had decided, after his injuries had rendered him paralyzed, that he would take his own life at an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland. The family tried everything to change his mind, but ultimately went with him to see him through. Moyes, seems to think that this choice, while not palatable to everyone, should be a choice for individuals and should not be considered a crime. It was suggested by the group that this book could be used as a great ice breaker to a general discussion about death and dying and the choices that people have available to them and the impact these choices have on loved ones left behind.
The sequel to this novel came out about a year ago, and Moyes’ other novels are available from the library. Here are the links to the books mentioned during the discussion:
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
To find out what else the Wednesday Morning Book Group will be reading, or any of the other book groups at the library, go to www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/book-groups/. On July 19, the Morning Book Group will be meeting to select the books for the coming year, so it would be a perfect time to jump in, bring a book suggestion, and join! No registration is necessary, just drop in.