Friday, January 9, 2015

Thoughts on Jojo Moyes, Me Before You

SPOILER ALERT THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUT THE BOOK

*For the sake of this post, I will be referring to the characters as if they are real people.

I read Me Before You in about five hours last night, I read it so quickly partly because it was an a amazing book and partly because I knew it was going to devastate me and I wanted to get it over with all at once. When I was finished, I couldn't quite accept the ending.

A brief synopsis of the book: Louisa Clark is 26 and jobless, desperate to help out her family, she takes a job as a "companion" for quadriplegic man Will Traynor. As it turns out, Louisa was mainly hired on suicide watch as Will had previously tried to kill himself. At first Will is difficult and Louisa wants to quit. Eventually, they develop a sarcastic banter and basically become friends. Louisa then finds out that Will has plans to go to Switzerland in 6 months to kill himself at a "Death With Dignity" center. Louf then promises both herself and Will's family that she will try and spend those months convincing Will to live. In that time they travel together and fall in love. Spoiler alert: Will kills himself anyway.

So that's what I can't seem to sort out and accept. I don't think that Will should have done what he did but let me lay it out with the facts.

Will was an extremely active man before the accident. He was rich businessman who got a lot of action and did a lot of adventurous travel. Clearly, the accident was devastating to him or to anyone who has ever been under those circumstances. I am NOT diminishing the suffering and many adjustments Will faced. At the end of the book, one of the last arguments Will makes in defense of his decision comes in response to Lou telling him she loves him and wants to stay with him forever. It is as follows:

"The thing is, I get that this could be a good life. I get that with you around, perhaps it could even be a very good life. But it's not my life. (...) It's not like the life I want. Not even close." (Moyes, 325)

So ok, I understand this. I mean, Will doesn't identify as just a personality, he identifies as a man who does things. But here he says outright that he has the possibility of a GREAT life. So what if it isn't what he planned, can't he learn to love his new normal? People have to adjust to poor circumstances every single day. Do mothers want to carry on and live a different life after losing a child? No, they don't want that heartbreaking change but they continue, for others and for the sake of themselves because beauty can be found after suffering.

Will then goes on to say that he wants Louisa to live her life to the fullest, that he feels he would be holding her back. That he can't love her in the way he wants to and he doesn't want her to someday resent him. This argument, bugs me perhaps most of all. I don't buy the whole "I have to leave so you can live" bit, I've heard it many times in other books and movies and I think it's a load of BS. Suicide, is never for the benefit of others. It's just not and I dislike how Will would say that it's going to be a good thing for Lou. I doubt there will be a day in her life when she doesn't wish Will was still alive. She WANTED him to live, she told him this. Why must he think he knows what she wants and needs?

And now, here is the kicker. The conversation between Will and Lou right before she says goodbye for good:

"'It has been,' I told him, 'the best six months of my entire life.'
 There was a long silence.
'Funnily enough Clark, mine too.'" (Moyes, 359)

I don't know how to explain why, after having a better six months than any time he was able bodied, Will would proceed to end his life. If he saw that he could be happy, if he saw that he could have good, even better times than ever before, how could he reconcile his decision? It doesn't make sense to me. 

Finally, my last bit of argument. Will did not head the advice he so often dolled out, not even close. When urging Louisa to branch out of her comfort zone, Will says, "'You only get one life to live. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible'" (Moyes, 194). How can Will tell her this and then four months later, end his own life? Louisa spent so much time and energy trying to show Will that their could be happiness and fullness, even if it looked different than before and even Will admitted this above. So how, I ask, does he say this to Louisa and blatantly go against it. Not only has he spent the last two years wallowing and certainly not living to the fullest, he kills himself! That's his idea of what to do with his "one life to live"???

I suppose it all comes down to the fact that Will was, like all of us, imperfect. He couldn't learn to accept his circumstances, he was too stubborn to try a lot of new things and he selfishly left behind a lot of people who loved him. I felt that he even let me, the reader, down. 

Ok, I have to stop now. I have to say that the book was beautiful, the characters were written in a complex and realistic way. I loved this book, I loved the writing style, I loved the clever dialogue. I loved Louisa and I loved Will. I just didn't like the ending and I don't think Will should have died, what do you think??

-G-

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