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Book Review: Me Before You

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Book Review: Me Before You

By Diane McCurdy

If a novel is deemed Chick Lit is it necessarily a pejorative? Me Before You has been on the top of the New York Times Paperback Best Seller’s List for quite some time. More than six million copies have been sold. The author, JoJo Moyes, a British wife and mother of three, has had several of her more than ten books appear on various lists. Her writing is breezy but intelligent. It implies a great deal of research but is never dull, always infused with a certain joie de vivre. She makes her characters feel like people we might know. Billed as a tear-jerker, it has dark spots but I was never moved to weep because of the brisk tone. Never maudlin, introspective and with some black humor, men should give it a try.

Louisa Clark is a flower-child type but not enough of a free spirit that she does not feel duty bound to contribute monetarily to her family’s well-being even though she is twenty something. Her sister, her nephew, her mother and father and grandfather all live together. She has a self-involved fitness fanatic boyfriend who is much more involved with marathon running than he is with her. When Louisa loses her job in a coffee shop, is it with some desperation that she seeks another. Very begrudgingly she accepts a position to be a companion and do light services for a young, aristocratic man who is a quadriplegic. She doesn’t have to attend to his major physical concerns because an affable male nurse will visit. The wheel chair bound guy, Will, is dazzlingly handsome, also angry and depressed. Will had lived large: an extreme sports’ enthusiast, a womanizer, a brash businessman, an inveterate traveler. He had been a general bon vivant whose spine was irreparably damaged in a road accident. Will’s mother senses something in Louisa that she feels might re-kindle Will’s desire to live. Louisa’s bubbly perkiness chips away Will’s brooding bitterness. They enhance one another. She elevates his mood and he introduces her to the finer things in life such as classical music and foreign films. She chides him to be more positive as she communicates with other quadriplegics on line to learn their special needs and expectations. He encourages her to live to her potential, expand her horizons. They fall in love. Of course. Are you surprised?

Now a major motion picture with Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones playing Louisa Clark and Sam Claflin of The Hunger Games as Will, Ms. Moyes wrote the screenplay so the film follows the novel quite faithfully eliminating only a few extraneous characters and events. Some critics have dismissed the book and film but I feel it posits some deeply profound perspectives: family loyalties, the right to die, society’s perception of the disabled. Written or on celluloid, I found the author’s plot line more uplifting than sad, no tears here.