Me Before You by Jojo Moyes’ is a romantic novel that topics the sensitive subject of euthanasia and the tragic truth behind physical impairment.
27-year-old Louisa Clark is desperate to find a job in the middle of an economic recession in London after The Buttered Bun, the only place for which young Miss Clark spent her 6 long years working, has closed.
Due to limited qualifications and lack of high educational attainment, Louisa had difficulty looking for a job that paid well. To add up to her dismay, her father who’s also one of the bread winners of their family has been subjected to employee cut off and is almost about to lose his job in a small furniture shop in town because of the recession. And her sister, Katrina, decided to enroll again herself to college at a very unconventional time after quite a few years of temporarily stopping to raise her son who has been conceived out of wedlock.Louisa is frantic to look for a decent job that actually wages quite an amount to feed five other hungry mouths and to send her sister back to the university.
Louisa is frantic to look for a decent job that actually wages quite an amount to feed five other hungry mouths and to send her sister back to the university. After practically begging one of her companions at the Job Center, she was then hired as a caregiver of a 35-year-old former businessman Will Traynor.
Will, after a tragic accident of about two years ago, suffers from C5/6 quadriplegia –a spinal cord injury that disables the body to perform any physiological function. His body from his chest downwards has lost its ability to make even small movements and is now in need of a 24-hour assistance from a medical personnel.
Aside from the infections he gets and the side effects of the antibiotics that causes his organs to slowly deteriorate, Will also suffer from mental and emotional damage. He’s often depressed and self-pitying of his current situation and of his inability to do almost anything by himself due to his illness.
Will and Louisa can be found at first despising each other.
Will and his sarcastic and rude demeanor that pushes everyone from coming near him is often detested by Louisa. And Louisa’s loudness that echoes in the once silent annex irritate the young man. Not to mention her endless questions of ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ gets through his nerves.
But after a long while of being under each other’s noses, the two developed a kind of friendship that later on blossomed into something deeper. She discovers the Will before the accident. The Will that is very different from the one never leaving the wheelchair. The Will that climbs the highest mountains, that swims the deepest of oceans, that jumps thousands of feet for sky diving, that sleeps under the blanket of the night sky in an unfamiliar woods million miles away from home. She discovered the Will who lived a big life opposite from her own.
Louisa, then, unintentionally found out the real reason behind her employment. Her role isn’t only to become Will’s carer for 6 months but to convince him to want to live again.
She found out that Will has long ago decided to go to Dignitas –a place in Switzerland where euthanasia is legal to end his life.
Louisa devised plans to make him go outside the barriers of the annex. It isn’t easy at first knowing Will’s attitude and of the fact that for 2 years he never really left the place. But through constant determination and quite several nagging, she managed to make him out and to look at the world outside once again.
As time ticked and months passed by, Louisa, with the help Nathan, Will’s nurse, came up with different ways to make Will realize the reason to want to live again. Not knowing that she is also teaching herself to embrace the things she thought she cannot do.
Later on, she realized her feelings for Will which made matters complicated with her fitness obsessed seven year boyfriend Patrick who was rubbing in her face all the time the things that she should and shouldn’t do as if he knew anything about her job. For this reason, their relationship later on led to break up.
Nonetheless, Louisa is happy that she chose her career and Will over that kind of person.
The two developed an intimacy after all the trips they’ve done together and also after knowing each other’s secrets and accepting the things that both of them cannot change.
A few weeks before the end of Louisa’s 6-month contract, the three of them –she, Will and Nathan, went on a trip to Mauritius. It was Louisa’s last chance to make him see the endless possibilities that still lies in front of him despite his current limitations.
According to her, it was The Holiday of a Lifetime. In the island of Mauritius, away from the scrutinizing stares of the people, and the walls of the annex that had imprisoned him for two years; Louisa saw that beneath all those impaired muscles under his sun-kissed skin, Will was still a man who seek for adventure, for life.
Or so she thought.
But it turned out that despite all the trips and the remote persuasion done by his parents and of the people around him, and most by Louisa, he was still resolute in doing his decision. As it was by far the only thing he will do for himself after the accident.
I wasn’t surprised by how the ending turned out. But still no matter how cliché, I sort of hoped he will change his mind, or that he will get better. And for some reasons, I’m also not fond of watching or imagining any character deaths. Regardless of how little or big, their roles are because it’s lonely.
But some endings should be left as it is. After all, Louisa was the one who had seen the great things in life that Will had already seen a long time ago.
Plus, if there was one thing I learned from the book, it’s this -we can’t really make other people change who they are. We are in no place to dictate to other people what they should or shouldn’t do. As for the case of Will Traynor or for people who suffered from an impairment of any sorts, we cannot blame them for seeing their escape through a controversial manner like, say, euthanasia. Though it is morally incorrect to end one’s life and it’s certainly not the best form of escape, we cannot use it against them especially when we are not in the same shoes as them.
But most importantly, despite how the author gave Will his escape from immense pain, the novel imparted an important lesson that everyone of us should bear in mind. That is to treasure the things that we can still do and to make the most out of the life we have. Because no matter how hard we don’t believe it, we do not live forever and the things we can do today, we cannot guarantee that we can still do tomorrow. So, just live.