Note: No spoilers for this book.
I really don’t think this author is capable of producing a book that is not good, but this one no doubt presented a particular challenge because she had apparently been inundated by reader requests to continue the story she began in the book Me Before You. Big fans tend to have even bigger expectations. Indeed, a number of directors of movies from popular series characterize fan pressure as “intense” and “terrifying” (see, for example, discussions of making “The Hunger Games” and the “Star Wars” franchises).
I don’t know how much Moyes worried about such expectations, but she acquitted herself with her usual knack for treating difficult subjects with grace, compassion, and humor.
In this sequel, we meet up again with Louisa (“Lou”) Clark, eighteen months after the love of her life, Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, opted to end his life. Lou stood by his side to the end, but she still hasn’t recovered. As the story begins, Lou has a pretty horrible job as a bartender and factotum at a faux Irish pub at the airport. Then she herself almost becomes a quadriplegic when she falls off of her rooftop after a melancholy night of loneliness and drinking. Her parents take her back with them to their home in Stortfold to recover, with her dad only agreeing to let her go back to her flat in London if she attends some sort of help group.
Lou returns to London, goes back to the bar because she can’t find any other job, and joins the Moving On Circle, a weekly meeting with others who have sustained a loss. Lou doesn’t have much in common with members of the group, besides the need to feel alive again:
“It was what we all wanted, ultimately, to be freed from our grief. To be released from this underworld of the dead, half our hearts lost underground, or trapped in little porcelain urns.”
Each of them, as one character notes, continues to be “in love with a ghost.”
Meanwhile, because of the group, Lou re-encounters “Ambulance Sam,” the paramedic who was so helpful to her when she fell, and who comes to pick up teenaged Jake after the meetings. Sam and Jake have also experienced the death of a loved one, and Sam explains how he can live with the memory:
“You learn to live with it, with them. Because they do stay with you, even if they’re not living, breathing people anymore. . . . It’s just something you learn to accommodate. Like adapting around a hole. I don’t know. It’s like you become . . . a doughnut instead of a bun.”
Lou also gets an unexpected new roommate in her flat – a 16-year-old totally bratty teenager, for whom Lou feels responsible simply because Lou is a decent person.
Thus, Lou again becomes more involved in taking care of others than in taking care of herself, with her sister Treena trying to talk some sense into her:
“Far easier for you to just stick with that depressing little job and complain about it. Far easier for you to sit tight and not take a risk and make out that everything that happens to you is something you couldn’t help.”
Eventually, and with a lot of help from her friends, Lou comes to agree. But can she actually overcome her fear of loss and sense of loyalty to Will and move on?
Evaluation: This is another lovely book from Jojo Moyes that won’t disappoint fans of Me Before You. Although one might think her books would be glum given the subject matter, on the contrary, you will find yourself laughing throughout, and once again admiring the amazing perseverance and pluck of the heroine.
You won’t want to miss reading these two books, especially since the film adaptation of Me Before You came out in June, 2016.
Published by Pamela Dorman Books, a division of Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015