By Chet Yarbrough
Jojo Moyes has won the romance novelist of the year twice. Me Before You is not one of the two books that achieved that commendation.Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase “Suspension of disbelief”. For literature to have an emotive impact on a reader there has to be “human interest and a semblance of truth”.
Me Before You tugs at emotions but the story’s premise fails to suspend disbelief. Despite that criticism, Moyes has written a story worth reading. She reaches into headlines of the 20th and 21st century. Are there justifiable reasons for one to seek assisted suicide?
The heroine of Moyes’ novel is Louisa Clark, an out-of-work waitress. Louisa is a quirky 26-year-old Eliza Doolittle that goes to work for a wealthy corporate attorney that has a quadriplegic son. The son lived a lucrative career as a corporate raider but was hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street. He lived a life of privilege and adventure; a lifestyle taken from him in his early 30s.
Louisa is asked by the quadriplegic’s mother to be a caregiver for her son at a relatively high rate of pay for six months. Six months are a critical period of time because the son has agreed to live for that period of time before flying to Switzerland for assisted suicide. Louisa is not told of the reason for her six month contract at the time of employment.
Moyes keeps the reader guessing about whether the son will give up on life. When Louisa becomes aware of the son’s intention, she dedicates her remaining contractual months to give the son reason to live.
The lifestyle gap between Louisa and the son is a harbinger of the future. Louisa’s motive for staying on the job is too romantic. Money, wealth, and life experience seem disproportionate for Moyes to suggest romance will change the direction of the son’s life. That may have been Moyes’ intention but a finer point on justification for assisted suicide may have been made in a romance between cultural equals.
Never the less, the story of Me Before You, exercises one’s emotions and touches truth in life. The truth is “life is always me before you”.