I laughed and cried. I felt hope and despair and elation and fear. At times I wanted to put the book in the freezer. [This analogy comes from the “Friends” episode in which Rachel offers to put Little Women in the freezer for Joey, who wants to stop something from happening and/or reading that it did!] I felt ALL THE FEELINGS.
What I especially loved is that when the 26-year-old heroine, Louisa (“Lou”) feels angry or sad or horrified or haunted or betrayed or happy or shy or awkward or ecstatic – whatever her state of mind, we were absolutely made to feel it also. I believe that talent by the author for conveying emotions and for making us feel them too, is what gives this book so much power.
Lou works as a caregiver for Will Traynor, a 35-year-old C5-6 quadriplegic, who, before his accident, lived an intense and active life as the head of a company specializing in “crushing people in business deals.” His idea of a vacation was pushing himself to his physical limits. Now, his physical limits are crushing him.
As an ever-present background in the book, the author provides a striking picture of what quadriplegics have to endure, not only in terms of the overwhelming physical and mental effects of profound injuries, and not only because of the awkward reactions of abled people who are uncomfortable in their presence, but even with respect to the difficulties of trying to navigate in a world designed for the able-bodied. She takes us through the heartbreak, frustration, humiliation, and fury, as well as the occasional triumphs and moments when Will is treated as a man instead of someone [or something] repulsive or offensive or a bother or a reminder of our vulnerability and mortality that we don’t want to have. Moyes captures all of this beautifully and with exceptional compassion. If it aids in changing readers understanding of and response to paralyzing conditions, this alone would justify the book.
I don’t want to say too much more about what this story is about, because it might be spoilery. It’s a love story, with two unlikely partners, and it is full of humor and joy and sorrow and ALL THE THINGS.
It’s about life and grabbing it by the horns and living it as fully as one can. It’s about the right to choose what you want out of life, and what gives you that freedom or takes it away. It’s a comedy of manners or lack thereof. More specifically, I’ll insert a brief more descriptive but possibly spoilery sentence here, comparing it to other books, which you can mouse over if you like.
Imagine a British-accented mash-up of Silver Linings Playbook and The Fault In Our Stars and the movie “Pretty Woman” and Erich Segal’s Love Story.
I’ve got just one piece of dialogue for you, to give you an idea of why these characters are so irresistible. In this scene, Lou is upset, and her sister Treena goes to her bedroom:
There was a knock on the door.
I blew my nose. ‘Piss off, Katrina.’
I stared at the door.
Her voice was muffled, as if her lips were close up to the keyhole. ‘I’ve got wine. Look, let me in, for God’s sake, or Mum will hear me. I’ve got two Bob the Builder mugs stuck up my sweater, and you know how she gets about us drinking upstairs.’
I climbed off the bed and opened the door.”
Evaluation: I loved this book. Highly recommended!
Published in the United States by Viking Penguin, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012