Genre: Women’s literature; drama; contemporary fiction
- If you don’t get to live the life you intended, is it still worth living?
- What right does someone have to take his/her own life?
- Is love all we need to be happy?
Opening line: “When he emerges from the bathroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows and flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed.”
Will Traynor is handsome, athletic, successful in his financial career, and surrounded by beautiful women. His life changes dramatically when he is hit by a car and suffers a spinal injury, leaving him a quadriplegic with only limited mobility in one hand. He is completely dependent on others to feed, bathe, dress him, help him get out of bed—everything. Understandably, it’s a big adjustment for someone who previously was in a position of power.
Will lives with his parents after the accident, but he’s not happy. After a gruesome suicide attempt, his parents agree to take him to Dignitas, a center in Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal, after a waiting period of six months. They hire Louisa Clark during that time because she is eccentric and lively, and they hope that she can remind Will that life is worth living.
At first, Will is contentious and obstinate, constantly poking fun at Lou and doing whatever he can to resist her attempts to make him happy. Slowly, through Lou’s persistent efforts and determination to still give him extravagant adventures as a quadriplegic, they fall in love. The big question, of course, is: is it enough for him?
I found some elements of the plot very convenient—if Will wasn’t handsome and rich, would Louisa still have fell in love with him? But it’s not hard to get over that. Moyes’s masterful storytelling draws you in. As you know, I love female characters full of gumption and a good ethical dilemma. This book bravely ventures into the gray territory of assisted suicide. Louisa struggles with it throughout the book, and seeks guidance from her family and the quad community, who have strong feelings on either side of the issue.
What I loved most about the book was the reversal of roles. Lou is hired to help take care of Will, to expand his horizons, to open his mind to a new way of living. But in many ways, Will ends up doing the same for her. Before Will, Louisa is unambitious and self-sacrificing to a fault. She’s perfectly content to stay in their little English village for the rest of her life. Will sees immediately that she has potential and he whets her own appetite for a bigger life, turning this into a bittersweet coming-of-age story.
“Who are the AB (able-bodied) to decide what our lives should be? If this is the wrong life for your friend, shouldn’t the question be: How do I help him to end it?”
“I couldn’t see anything beyond Will by then.” (Reminds me of this line from Jane Eyre: “I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol.”)
Recommend? Yes! And I can’t wait to see the movie.
What I’m Reading Next:
- Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
- Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
You might also like:
- The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green