Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jojo Moyes - How Did I Miss Her?

Thanks to my friend Maryellen for answering my call for a good read. She recommended The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. I'll definitely check it out. But, while I was waiting for all your ideas, I happened to read on one of the blogs I follow that Jojo Moyes has a new novel coming out and that the critics are very excited about it. (The Girl You Left Behind.)

 Wait a minute, I thought, I know that name. Didn't I just buy her last well regarded novel and download it to my nook? Sure enough. Me Before You has been sitting patiently in the electronic netherworld  calling my name and I almost missed one of the best books I've read this summer!

Mull this one over. Do you believe that you could love someone enough to help them die? That's the dilemma Ms. Moyes has conjured up for Louisa Clark, one of the funniest, most sensitive, quirky characters I've spent time with in quite a while. I guess I would call her the Eliza Doolittle of modern literature.
 Her Rex Harrison? Will Traynor, a man injured in a fluke automobile accident, now confined to a wheelchair. A quadriplegic, unable to attend to the simplest bodily functions, Will has to be spoon fed, changed and exercised. He's been given no hope of a recovery and suffers a lonely existence in a private annex of his parents home in a wealthy London enclave.

Louisa lives a short distance but light years away, on the other side of the tracks so to speak, with her own family, broke but unbroken, full of chaos, love, and acceptance. Circumstances are such that Louisa finds herself suddenly the sole support of her folks, her addled grandpa, and her sister and nephew. The job, playing nursemaid to Will from dawn to dusk, carries a salary that would save the Clark family. So what if she has no experience at this kind of thing? She'll be on a trial basis for six months. What could go wrong?

This is where the novel could have devolved into just another predictable love story but, trust me please. It is so much more! I would love to lead a book discussion of Me Before You but it might cut too close to the bone for so many people. Will and Louisa are oil and water from the moment they meet but as the weeks turn into months and the two parry and thrust, adjusting, learning about each other, letting down their guards, their roles reverse and the nurturer becomes the nurtured.

A man and a woman whose lives would never have intersected under normal circumstances are each forced to abandon their prejudices and look beneath the surface for a common thread. A tentative trust is established until Louisa overhears a conversation that explains why she's only been hired on for a six month stint. Will, after a failed suicide attempt, is determined to end his life at a Swiss hospice. His parents have extracted a promise of six more months hoping that, through Louisa,
Will might regain the joy of living.

Jojo Moyes' writing talent is fully on display here as she explores, through Will, the complicated, emotional, and controversial subject of assisted suicide. Who gets to decide when a life is no longer worth living? Can we outsiders judge the motives of family and friends who either support or revile the act of allowing a loved one to die. Is it selfish or selfless to guilt a suffering human being into continuing a life they no longer find tenable?

I would guess that most of us have faced or will be faced with similar questions and decisions at some point in our lives. My own family still agrees to disagree about my father's choice even though the operative word "choice" looms large. Have you written your living will? Made your wishes known?

Moyes has written an exquisite though some may say unrealistic love story. Suspend disbelief. Go with the flow. This beautiful novel is a gift, full of humor, sensitivity and love. Each character is complex and nuanced and deeper than we first give them credit for. In fact, they're just what every reader wants, people we'd like to know.


Kelly Robinson said...

Great write-up. I'll have to give her a closer look.

TooManyBooks said...

Sally, I read Me Before You and really liked it. So much more than I expected! 94 days until retirement!!

Sallyb said...

Hi Kelly, Thanks for reading. And DO give her a try. I'm planning to go back to some of her earlier novels before latching on to the latest.

Maryellen, You're not counting are you??

Jessica said...

I've been hearing lots of good hype about this one - guess I'll have to add it to my list.