by Jojo Moyes
Hardcover (31 Dec 2012), 384 pages.
(Due out in paperback Jul 2013)
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life - steady boyfriend, close family - who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for exMaster of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life - big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel - and now he's pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy - but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn't have less in common - a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
When he emerges from the bathroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows and flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed. She is wearing one of his T-shirts, and her long hair is tousled in a way that prompts reflexive thoughts of the previous night. He stands there, enjoying the brief flashback, rubbing the water from his hair with a towel.
She looks up from a brochure and pouts. She is probably slightly too old to pout, but they've been going out a short enough time for it still to be cute.
"Do we really have to do something that involves trekking up mountains, or hanging over ravines? It's our first proper holiday together, and there is literally not one single trip in these that doesn't involve either throwing yourself off something or"she pretends to shudder"wearing fleece."
She throws them down on the bed, stretches her caramel-colored arms above her head. Her voice is husky, testament to their missed hours of sleep. "How about a luxury spa in Bali? We could lie around on the sand . . . spend hours being pampered . . . long relaxing nights . . ."
"I can't do those sorts of holidays. I need to be doing something."
"Like throwing yourself out of airplanes."
"Don't knock it till you've tried it."
She pulls a face. "If it's all the same to you, I think I'll stick with knocking it."
His shirt is faintly damp against his skin. He runs a comb through his hair and switches on his mobile phone, wincing at the list of messages that immediately pushes its way through to the little screen.
"Right," he says. "Got to go. Help yourself to breakfast." He leans over the bed to kiss her. She smells warm and perfumed and deeply sexy. He inhales the scent from the back of her hair, and briefly loses his train of thought as she wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him down toward the bed.
"Are we still going away this weekend?"
He extricates himself reluctantly. "Depends what happens on this deal. It's all a bit up in the air at the moment. There's still a possibility I might have to be in New York. Nice dinner somewhere Thursday, either way? Your choice of restaurant." His motorbike leathers are on the back of the door, and he reaches for them.
She narrows her eyes. "Dinner. With or without Mr. BlackBerry?
" "What? "
"Mr. BlackBerry makes me feel like Miss Gooseberry." The pout again. "I feel like there's always a third person vying for your attention."
"I'll turn it on to silent."
"Will Traynor!" she scolds. "You must have some time when you can switch it off."
"I turned it off last night, didn't I? "
"Only under extreme duress."
He grins. "Is that what we're calling it now?" He pulls on his leathers. And Lissa's hold on his imagination is finally broken. He throws his motorbike jacket over his arm, and blows her a kiss as he leaves.
There are twenty-two messages on his BlackBerry, the first of which came in from New York at 3:42 A.M. Some legal problem. He takes the lift down to the underground car park, trying to update himself with the night's events.
"Morning, Mr. Traynor."
The security guard steps out of his cubicle. It's weatherproof, even though down here there is no weather to be protected from. Will sometimes wonders what he does down here in the small hours, staring at the closed-circuit television and the glossy bumpers of £60,000 cars that never get dirty.
He shoulders his way into his leather jacket. "What's it like out there, Mick?"
"Terrible. Raining cats and dogs."
Will stops. "Really? Not weather for the bike? "
Mick shakes his head. "No, sir. Not unless you've got an inflatable attachment. Or a death wish."
Reprinted by arrangement with Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Copyright © 2012 by Jojo Moyes.
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
An Introduction to Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
"The thing about being catapulted into a whole new lifeor at least, shoved up so hard against someone else's life that you might as wellhave your face pressed against their windowis that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are" (p. 58).
Louisa Clark never wanted to leave her job at the Buttered Bun. After six years, she felt secure in the routine of making tea and chatting with the café's regulars. But when her boss closes the business, the unskilled twenty-six-year-old must take a new job as a paid companion to a wealthy exMaster of the Universe, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Prickly and embittered, Will Traynor nonetheless opens Louisa's eyes to the limitations she has imposed upon her lifeand the infinite possibilities that only love can awaken.
A few short years earlier, Will was a major corporate player who bought and sold companies for obscene profits. He climbed mountains and dated cover girls. All that changed after a speeding motorcycle crushed his spine. Paralyzed from the neck down and even unable to feed himself, Will's life as he knows it is overand he is not interested in exploring a new one.
Louisa feels intimidated by Will, his commanding mother, Camilla, and the Traynors' grand home, but the position pays a lot more than her waitressing job did and her family doesn't hesitate to remind Lou that she has few options otherwise.
At first, Will resents Louisa's very presence. When he destroys a shelf full of pictures, Louisa tries to repair the damage. Furious, he lashes out, "It would be nicejust for onceif someone paid attention to what I wanted. Me smashing those photographs was not an accident" (p. 56). Yet, the blowout is a turning point. Louisa stops trying to second guess Will's decisions, but also refuses to bear the brunt of his frustration.
Louisa is accustomed to putting herself last. Her parents never hid the fact that they considered Louisa's younger sister, Treena, to be the more intelligent sibling. PatrickLouisa's boyfriend of six yearsis a self-absorbed personal trainer concerned only with his performance in the next triathlon. As she and Will grow closer, he convinces her that she deserves more respect from everyone in her life, including herself. Still, Lou has her reasons for wanting things to stay the same as they have always been.
When Lou learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. She begins researching technologies that can give him more autonomy and looking for outings that he might find appealing. Each for the other's sake, Louisa and Will push beyond their comfort zones and, in turn, change each other in ways that neither could ever have anticipated.
As inspiring as it is heartbreaking, Me Before You is Jojo Moyes's international bestselling breakout noveland the captivating tale of two people whose improbable romance sets them both free.
Jojo Moyes is the author of several books, including The Last Letter from Your Lover. She lives with her husband and children in Essex, England.
Suggested Questions for Discussion:
- If you were Louisa, would you have quit working for the Traynors? If yes, at what point?
- Were you able to relate to the way Will felt after his accident? What about his outlook on life did you find most difficult to understand or accept?
- Discuss the meaning of the novel's title. To whom do the "me" and "you" refer?
- Louisa often finds Mrs. Traynor cold and judgmental. Is there an appropriate way to behave in Mrs. Traynor's situation?
- What is your opinion of Mr. Traynor? Did it change after you read his side of the story?
- Why is Louisa able to reach Will when so many others could not?
- Were you as surprised as Lou to learn of Will's plans?
- Compare Louisa's relationship with Treena to Will's relationship with Georgina. Do siblings know one another any better simply because they are related?
- Would Patrick have asked Louisa to move in with him if he hadn't felt threatened by Will? If Louisa had never accepted her job with the Traynors, where would her relationship with Patrick have gone?
- Discuss Louisa's own secret ties to the castle. Would most girls in her situation have blamed themselves? Should Treena have behaved differently in the aftermath?
- What did you make of the way Lou's mother, Josie, judges Lou's decisions regarding Will. Is Josie's reaction fair?
- Before his accident, Will was a philanderer and a corporate raider who would probably never have given Louisa a second look. Why is it that people are so often unable to see what's truly important until they've experienced loss?
Full reading guide including recipe and playlist suggestions at penguingroup.com
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Pamela Dorman Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
Simply reading the jacket copy of Moyes's second novel might give readers the impression that Me Before You is a traditional "opposites attract" kind of romance novel, the kind of story that proves that love conquers all, even in the most extreme circumstances. Although on one level that may be true, Me Before You is, in fact, so much more. It's a story about personal redemption and self-worth, about finding courage, about knowing what to hold onto and what to let go. It's also a meditation on one of the most controversial and divisive issues of our times. And, lest you think that the novel is merely an inspirational fable or a "problem novel," rest assured that it's also a beautifully and smartly written literary work, full of lovely phrases, complicated characters, and compelling situations.
When we first meet Louisa Clark, known as "Lou," she seems to have settled into a predictable pattern. At age twenty-six she still lives at home with her parents and her relationship with her boyfriend seems to have settled into familiarity or could it be stagnation? She's never had much in the way of ambition her only real gesture toward originality is her unconventional, adventurous fashion sense. But Lou is about to be shaken out of her complacency when she loses her job at the local bakery.
It's 2009, the height of the recession, and Lou's family is relying on her to bring in an income, especially since her dad's job is far from secure. So against her better judgment, Lou applies to be a caregiver for a wealthy quadriplegic man. Much to her surprise, she is offered the job. Even more to her surprise, the middle-aged woman who interviews her is not the man's daughter or wife she's his mother. Will Traynor is just thirty-five but has been confined to a wheelchair for two years, ever since an accident left him with an inoperable spinal cord injury.
Will seems to despise Lou when they first meet, and she feels the same. He is incredibly rude and, more than that, he rejects her. Over time, however, Lou sees beneath Will's gruff demeanor and beyond his injury, and the two form an increasingly tender friendship. But it's a bittersweet one as well, as Lou soon discovers Will's true intentions to seek suicide rather than to endure decades in a wheelchair and takes it upon herself to set him on a different path during the short time they may have together.
Me Before You is simultaneously whimsical (the descriptions of Lou's wardrobe are particularly delightful) and romantic. It is also intensely serious, as it compels readers to consider powerful questions about freedom, choice, and the value of human life. Both Will's and Lou's choices can, and likely will be, debated and discussed by anyone who reads their story and the novel's surprisingly uplifting conclusion is bound to prompt more than a few tears.
Moyes's novel will appeal to fans of Jodi Picoult and Marian Keyes, as well as readers who appreciate a thoughtful engagement with real-world issues, nestled in a superbly told story.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl
New York Times Book Review
When I finished this novel, I didn’t want to review it: I wanted to reread it. . . . Moyes’s story provokes tears that are redemptive, the opposite of gratuitous. Some situations, she forces the reader to recognize, really are worth crying over. . . . with Lou and Will she has created an affair to remember.
O, The Oprah Magazine
An unlikely love story . . . To be devoured like candy, between tears.
After finishing Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, you grasp why the novel, a word-of-mouth sensation from Britain, has been sold to 28 countries. . . . by turns funny and moving but never predictable.
Funny, surprising and heartbreaking, populated with characters who are affecting and amusing . . . This is a thought-provoking, thoroughly entertaining novel that captures the complexity of love.
Despite some obviousness in the storyline, this is uplift fiction at its best, with fully drawn characters making difficult choices.
Moyes’ latest is made heartwarming, thanks to the vibrancy of its main characters, both of whom will keep readers on their toes with their chemistry and witty repartee. . . .humorous and romantic through and through.
Starred Review. [A] lovely novel, both nontraditional and enthralling.
The Independent (UK)
If you think this tale sounds obvious – she brightens his life, he acts as her Pygmalion – think again: Jojo Moyes draws on the skills she honed as a journalist to create a clear, candid picture of the practicalities of Will's situation – the health issues, the unrelenting pain – while her novelist's mind casts illuminating light on her characters' reactions to the highly emotive and topical subject of assisted dying.
Rated of 5
by Louise J
Couldn't Put It Down!
I didn’t expect the ending of this book at all, it was quite a shock to me to be quite honest and I cried for about ten minutes. The author has done a fantastic job at penning this novel and you won’t be able to put it down once you’ve started and I was sorry to see it end. I’ll definitely be recommending it to family and friends.
Rated of 5
by Diane S.
Me before you
Finishing this book on the 40th anniversary of the passing of Roe vs. Wade almost seems ironic. The heart of this novel also concerns a pressing moral issue, one I will not comment on nor state which side of the debate I would be on. Louisa and Will Traynor are memorable characters, fully developed wonderful characters dealing with things I hope I never have to. This type of book can easily verge on the maudlin and over dramatic and it is to this author s credit that it did neither. Their was humor, their was love, and almost every other emotion one could imagine. I was emotionally involved, though I could see both side of the issue and I am still not sure which side I would have fallen on. This was in all ways a wonderful book, a heartfelt and heartbreaking book, a book that should be read.
At the center of Me Before You is an intensely emotional and ethical debate about assisted suicide; and in particular, of the assisted-death organization, Dignitas, which plays a primary role in the story. Dignitas, founded near Zurich, Switzerland in 1998, has as its motto "to live with dignity to die with dignity." The organization's assisted suicide programs are very carefully regulated and require that prospective patients undergo a series of psychological and medical assessments. Patients must also certify that they are making the decision to die of their own free will; Swiss law mandates that assisted suicide be done without coercion or self-interest on the part of the person or organization assisting with the process. Suicide is accomplished humanely through ingestion of a powerful overdose of pentobarbital, which first numbs pain, then induces a coma, and finally results in respiratory arrest and death. It's estimated that more than a thousand people have been assisted to die by Dignitas.
Dignitas is not the only organization providing these services, and Swtizerland is not the only place in the world where assisted suicide is legal (three U.S. states have legalized physician-assisted suicide, although under stricter regulation than in Switzerland). Digitas's relatively liberal policies and their willingness to work with so-called "suicide tourists" who travel to Switzerland from elsewhere in Europe or around the world has resulted in significant attention and publicity, as well as criticism and controversy. A former nurse employed by the organization has accused it of being overly concerned with profits and not enough with the mental and physical well-being of its patients. According to the Journal of Medical Ethics, more than 20 percent of Dignitas's patients have no physical or mental illnesses, but simply cite "weariness with life" as their rationale for suicide, raising numerous questions about what constitutes reasonable and ethical grounds for suicide assistance. A recent article in the Daily Mail relates the agonizing story of a man who took ninety minutes to die, nearly three times as long as what Dignitas's physicians promise.
No matter what, the issue of assisted suicide, and Dignitas's services in particular, will continue to be debated in literary circles; British superstar writer Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008, has declared his intention to seek death with Dignitas when the time comes, saying "it should be possible for someone stricken with a serious and ultimately fatal illness to choose to die peacefully with medical help, rather than suffer."
Photo by Steffan Hill
By Norah Piehl