It was on a rainy morning in the central London traffic that the life of a vital, charismatic, and handsome man was changed forever. A road accident had permanently damaged Will Traynor’s spinal cord and reduced him to a wheelchair. Once a lover of extreme sports and a powerful businessman, Will is now quadriplegic, he has lost forever the use of his legs and has a very limited use of hands and arms. Not only does he need to be constantly assisted and monitored by medical staff; his mental welfare is compromised as well and, after a failed suicide attempt, his parents decide to hire a caregiver/companion who might help him and encourage him to adapt to his new circumstances.
“[…] his condition [is] not just a matter of being stuck in that chair, of the loss of physical freedom, but a never-ending litany of indignities and health problems, of risks and discomforts.”Will’s paralysis is not a reversible condition; the only thing doctors can do for him is trying to reduce his pain, stop him from atrophying and keep his physical condition up, but there is nothing that therapy can do to lift his spirit. Louisa Clark, just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life and only bread-winner in her family, is in desperate need to find a new job. While seeking for new opportunities, a well-paid and temporary position as a caregiver for a disabled man seems to be her only option, and although she believes to be inadequate for the job because of her lack of professional skills, she appears to have the right mental attitude to deal with the dejected and disabled Will Traynor. Lou may not be refined or highly educated, she doesn’t have fancy hobbies or trips abroad to show off on her resume, she doesn’t belong in Will’s high society world, but she is attentive and emphatic, cheerful and chatty. With her extravagant clothes and snappy tongue she amuses Will to no end, bringing in his otherwise grey and sterile life a blast of color and warm sweetness. With her ability to tune into Will’s needs and emotions, not only Lou succeeds in tearing down the walls of sarcasm, anger and frustration he has erected around himself after the accident; she even convinces him to allow himself to find a reason to live through experiences that might generate happiness and contentment. Against all expectations, Will and Lou will find themselves intensely connected and drawn to each other by an irresistible chemistry, more powerful than all the challenges and limitations imposed by his physical disability. But for a man who used to be at the top of his game, and now completely powerless, vulnerable, and unable to do a single thing for himself, even love may not be enough to steer his mind from an heartbreaking decision.I do not usually lose my composure when I read a tear jerker novel, but Me Before You by acclaimed author Jojo Moyes absolutely stunned me. It reduced me to an emotional wreck like very few books have been able to do in a long time, my emotions and reactions to a delicate matter such as voluntary euthanasia still raw days after the last page was turned. What the romantic cover artwork and upbeat book jacket blurb deceivingly tend to present as a modern fairy-tale turned out to be a much more complicated and profoundly ethical debate on the moral issues and legal legitimacy of the personal right to death for people who suffer from debilitating conditions and terminal illnesses.