Louisa Clarke is vulnerable. She’s survived, only barely. Lou’s survived love, loss, friendship and the judgement that came with her decision to love a man so much, she watched him leave her; physically and mentally.
When I read Me Before You, Jojo Moyes heartbreaking novel about a paraplegic and his view of the world, I learned that Louisa Clarke was an optimistic sort. In spite of her circumstances, job and her strange relationship with Patrick, her family stuck together. Love, though not always expressed, and dysfunctional at best, existed, to the point that Lou felt it was sometimes all too much. When she became Will’s companion/caregiver, Lou’s world became hopeful, filled with joy, simple in a way. While Will could be a curmudgeon, as belligerent as a spoiled child, Lou brought him sunshine and bumble bee tights, Will gave her the opera, a sort of wanderlust, and together they made it work. An odd relationship to most, even to those around them, for the two of them it was all very normal.
I’ve only just re-acquainted myself with Lou in After You, and it’s been a few years since we first met. She isn’t the person I quite remember. Lots to take in. Lou’s lost the will to live. Interesting because all Will asked of her is that she live well, making the most of every opportunity that came her way. Lou is stuck. Heartbroken. She remembers a time when she laughed, her “moving on” group her only solace and her job, well, um, that’s a situation that doesn’t seem to have improved. As for her family, they seem to be tip-toeing around her well-being, so to speak. Although Trina, Lou’s sister, moves forward productively and the dynamic between Lou’s parents provides quite a bit of humor. I enjoyed her mum’s newfound feminism and her dad’s inability to accept her mum’s new place in the world. Lou’s world however has no color, it’s awfully dreary and automatic. Her apartment white, bare and lifeless.
Things change for Lou when she meets Lilly. Lilly is as typical as a teen could be but leads an interesting life. Slightly dark, dabbling in drugs and the misguided notion that she is an adult with the sort of freedom that needs no supervision, it was Lily’s story that kept the book going for me. I think as a result, I mostly enjoyed Lily and Lou’s dynamic. Something shifted for me with this second book; I couldn’t find that quality of quirk and the quietly serious to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed ‘ Me Before You.’ Although the cast of characters, especially Sam, added a new dimension to Lou’s story, her recovery and her healing heart. I saw more to Will’s mum in this book than I did in the first; she had heart, she was human and that particular side was just lovely. You’ve got to love a flawed character. There were plenty of those in this story.
It is still a story about life and death; the visceral impact of a singular life that feeds one’s memory, a painful reminder of a past that asks the question of all those left behind, if their sense of purpose has now changed given that they all have just one shot at this thing we call “life.”