This month, for the first time ever, the UBC had their monthly meeting at a restaurant. This was because I live in the middle of nowhere, so hosting a meeting at my place would be pretty much impossible. As a result, we all gathered at The Buzz on Bank Street for some food, wine, and discussion on this month’s pick, Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes.
Me Before You was recommended to me a few months back by none other than Julia Kent. Being a sucker for a good love story, I immediately jumped at borrowing the book and had it finished in less than three days. I knew then that it would be my pick for book club.
Will Traynor, a thirty something living in small-town England, had the world at his fingertips: a dream job, money, and a beautiful girlfriend. Audacious, daring, and willing to try anything, he was the poster boy for adventure. All of this, however, came to a halt when he was in an accident that left him completely paralyzed from the neck down.
Living in the same city was the simpleton, Lou Clark. She enjoyed her regular life working at a coffee shop, and she would have been content working there until the day she died if it weren’t for its impromptu closure. She was the main bread winner in the family and needed to find a job fast to feed her parents, grandfather, sister and nephew.
Lou ends up accepting a caregiver position posted by Will’s mother, Camilla, and surprise, surprise, this is how the love story begins! However, this is not the usual boy-meets-girl-and- fall-in-love romance novel; it addresses a major ethical dilemma at the forefront of international debate: euthanasia.
Without going into too much detail and revealing the entire plot of the story, Will has lost his will (no pun intended) to live. This was one of the major topics we discussed: if you were in Will’s position, what would you do?
Our answers varied but followed two main streams: half of the girls, put into the same situation as the protagonist, would want to commit suicide because they believe that life would no longer be worth living. The other half were very convinced that if they were able to actually put themselves in the identical situation, they would think differently, and find the good in every situation – a reason to live.
This debate veered from personal opinions on the book to the ethical dilemma of an establishment such as Dignitas (the assisted suicide institution in the novel) actually being available to those who are in the same predicament as Will. Should places like this exist? Should it be possible to give the gift of no more pain to those who cannot end the suffering for themselves? Again, points of view varied. Some of us do not believe that suicide is the only option while others could appreciate the release of a person from constant pain and agony, both mentally and physically.
The ratings for this book were scattered, ranging from 2.5 to 5, with the average being around a 4. I was hoping/predicting this book would be rated higher (don’t we all?) but I’m afraid Julia and myself may have oversold it. Oops!
The ladies, however, came to the main overall consensus (with one exception): We thought the book was definitely emotionally evoking and consequently had most of us sobbing by the end. Some of us found it a bit predictable, myself included, and some of the characters could have been a bit more developed, such as Patrick, Lou’s boyfriend. One thing JoJo Moyes did very well was paint believable characters and situations – we hated Camilla, loved Nathan (the other caregiver), and cringed during the horse-racing fiasco. The descriptions were clear and simple, making it easy to imagine ourselves in the story.
All in all, Me Before You kept most of us emotionally invested in the plot and making us want to keep turning page after page to find out what happens next.