Me Before You Summary

Jojo Moyes

Me Before You

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Me Before You Summary

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English author and journalist Jojo Moyes published the romance novel Me Before You (2012) after caring for her two relatives who were quadriplegics. The novel, which became a blockbuster film in 2016, follows a young Englishwoman caring for and eventually falling in love with a paralyzed man who has chosen to end his life soon.

Themes in Me Before You include bravery in facing death, the power of love to expand one’s introspective abilities, and the strictures of physical and social limits.

Set in the beginning of 2009, twenty-six-year-old Louisa “Lou” Clark is a working-class woman who, after the café she works at closes, and unable to stand the factory jobs available to her, takes a job as a “care assistant” to the son of a wealthy English family. Louisa is affable, but sort of a quack: she wears odd clothes, tells corny jokes, and rarely can conceal her emotions.

Louisa is to care for Will Traynor, who, at thirty-five, has been paralyzed from the neck down for two years after a motorcycle hit him. Will, who had led an action-packed life thanks to his intelligence and wealth, is angry at the world and wants nothing more than to die. Before the accident, Will climbed rocks at Yosemite, swam in Iceland’s volcanic hot springs, and had his pick of any gorgeous model out there. But now, he is incapable of moving, feeding himself, or having sex.

His mother, Camilla, employs Louisa to rekindle his joy for life; another full-time nurse, Nathan, already sees to his medical requirements. Camilla is married to Steven, a friendly businessman; their marriage is on the rocks and further stressed by Will’s situation.

Louisa is not the most adventurous of heroines. After a rude interaction with a mob of men at twenty, Louisa fears to venture out of the confines of her own small town. She still lives with her mother. The family’s youngest, Katrina, also lives with their mother. Katrina, “Treena,” is a single mother, and Louisa chooses to sleep in a closet so that Katrina and her daughter can have the larger room. Though Treena is unemployed, Louisa often feels overshadowed by Treena because her younger sister is so outgoing and garrulous.

Will is an emotionally combative man whom Louisa does not want to work for, but her family’s impoverished situation encourages her to take the job anyway. A resentful Will often makes snippy comments to Louisa, whom he curtly calls, “Clark.” He becomes especially caustic after his former girlfriend, Alicia, becomes engaged to his best friend, Rupert.

Despite their rocky start, Louisa and Will start to bond over the stories they share. One day, Louisa overhears Camilla and Will’s sister talking about Will’s suicide attempt. He attempted to cut himself and bleed to death after Camilla refused to hire an end-of-life company, Dignitias, to assist with his suicide. Camilla, in agony over his wish to die, agrees to honor his wish, but only if he lives for six more months. Louisa pretends not to know about Camilla’s plan. She does tell Treena about it, and the two brainstorm ways that they can show Will that life, even in his current state, is worth living.

Louisa takes Will out on more outings, and the two grow closer. Over time, Will encourages Louisa to lead the kind of adventurous life he is unable to lead anymore. She demands that he tell her precisely how to be adventurous, a subtle way for Louisa to show him that life is still worth living.

Meanwhile, Louisa has problems at home. Her father loses his job, but fortunately, Mr. Traynor quickly offers him a position at one of his companies. Louisa’s boyfriend, Patrick, aware of the growing intimacy she has with Will, breaks up with her.

At Alicia and Rupert’s wedding, the two dance and flirt in front of everyone. Will says to Louisa that she is the only reason he wakes up in the morning.

Will draws Louisa out of her shell enough to join the local library, which she has been avoiding because of several awful memories. With the computer, she joins messaging boards for care assistants and quadriplegics. From these emails, Louisa realizes that they are not alone in their struggles, and she is filled with a stronger urge to connect with the rest of the world.

They plan to go on several vacations, but Will contracts a terrible case of pneumonia and remains at the hospital. At the hospital, Louisa contemplates his calluses that tell of a life of adventure. The unusual situation has forced this unambitious young woman to consider topics she normally never would: love, mortality, and making the most of life.

When he recovers, Louisa decides to tone down their plans to travel the world and to go to Mauritius, a beautiful island off the east coast of Africa. Louisa says she loves Will. He does not say anything. She confesses she is aware of his plans to die through Dignitias. Will says he loves her, but he cannot live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Louisa is hurt and angered by this. She storms off, refusing to speak to him for the rest of the trip.

When they return to England, Louisa resigns. Will’s parents, while initially delighted to see he is in better physical shape from the vacation, are crestfallen at Louisa’s resignation; they know she was their last hope for Will’s survival.

Louisa visits Will the day before he is to fly to Switzerland to end his life. They agree the past six months have been the happiest of their lives.

After his death, Louisa receives a large sum of money from Will to continue her education and live life to the fullest. The novel ends a few weeks later with Louisa in the Paris café that was Will’s favorite. In the letter, he tells her to buy a specific perfume he always thought would go well with her, and exhorts her to not think of him too often and to “live well.”