Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Me Before You says so much about existing versus living and the restrictions placed upon us both by ourselves and by circumstances. Daredevil Will has found himself a victim of the capriciousness of fate. Ironically it wasn't mountain climbing or skydiving that landed him in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury, but a wrong place/wrong time scenario.

Knowing the possibility of a full recovery from his injuries is nil, Will plans to venture to Dignitas, an assisted suicide facility. Before he does though, he has promised his parents six months of living with assisted care under their roof.

In a desperate bid to change their son's mind, the Traynors employee Louisa Clark. Lou has recently found herself without a job and without any sort of prospects in a down economy. She accepts the job offered by the Traynors as a companion to their son, though soon the full import of her decision is made apparent in an overheard conversation with Will's mother in which Will’s plans are revealed. Desperate to make things right and not let the Traynors down, Lou sets out to change Will's mind.

Though Me Before You could be said to be about the subject of euthanasia, the text is truly about what is life versus living. So many elements coincide to this point: The irony of Will's accident being not the result of some outlandish thrill-seeking, but rather a fateful encounter with a motorbike as a pedestrian. Lou's self-doubt fueled by her family's disparagement as not being the "smart" one that leads her to not aspire beyond the coffee shop in which she was employed. The paradox of Lou's parents - her pessimistic father and cheerful mother, which seems to encapsulate so much of the book: optimism and hope for a better future versus reality. The sacrifice of parents who love their children enough to let them go. And ultimately there is the theme of choices we all make and the ripple effect each has.

Moyes never hits the reader over the head with whether euthanasia is right or wrong. It would be easy to get preachy either way in this story, but she takes an evenhanded approach, allowing Will's reasoning to be made prominent even as opposing forces work for him to have a change of heart.

Me Before You is simultaneously lovely and heartbreaking, a story of love and sacrifice, hope and despair. It is not a joyous read, but certainly is a worthwhile one.