After You (Me Before You #2)

Read:  2018

Author:  Jojo Moyes

Narrator:  Anna Acton

Published:  2015

Genre:  General Fiction

Length:  11 hrs and 6 min (audible)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Lady Esbe’s ScoreScoring Great Book

“How do you move on after losing the person you loved?  How do you build a life worth living? 

“Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life.  After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him.  When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started. 

“Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life.  Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies.  They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding – the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her.  Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future…”

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Lady Esbe’s Review

Having read Me Before You, I was devastated for Louisa when Will completed his intended plans and wanted to know if Louisa was able to rebuild after Will.  Initially, I was saddened to find her in the state she was in, but it was to be expected.  She’s a kind soul and no matter how much she loved Will

While the first novel depicted Louisa as being a bird of a different color, she wasn’t adventurous in her life, until meeting Will.  Unfortunately, that has not changed in the second novel.  One could argue that just as she was stagnant with pre-Will, she’s become stagnant post-Will. That is not to say she hasn’t changed, but as the saying goes, the more things change, he more things stay the same.

I’ll start with periphery characters, because I will spend a bit of time of Louisa.  More than Louisa, the person who has changed the least in this novel is Louisa’s sister, Trina.  Trina is very opinionated, very in your face and, in my opinion, an instigator.  While some of her machinations could be considered as encouragement.  Quite a bit of her interference causes conflict.  In this novel, Louisa’s parents are experiencing a marital rift as the instigation of Trina.  I’m sure her heart may be in the right place, but the result is mayhem.  Unfortunately, her meddling is most likely motivated by her lack of life beyond working and parenting her son Thomas.  However, even though she attempts to help correct the problems she helps create, if she would learn to stay out of it, then she would be able to relax and focus on achieving more for herself, including moving out on her own.

Josie is probably the most changed in this novel from the first installment.  While she has begun to explore herself as an individual, she truly went to the extreme and I was more empathetic with Bernard, her husband than her.  I’m not saying that Bernard shouldn’t give a little.  What I’m saying is a bit more moderation on her part may have caused less friction than necessary.  Yet, her extreme push got Bernard out of his comfort zone.  She dragged him kicking and screaming into changes that he was unwilling to even consider before she stepped outside of her comfort zone.  She learns that she was unfulfilled in her life as just a housewife who looked after her grandson, husband and father.  She is a nurturer, but no one ever took interest in her and her needs.  So good on her for stepping out and learning somethings about herself and exploring the world, even if it was to be adversarial to her husband vice truly being interested in a new experience.  In truth she was interested in exploring and learning more, the fact that it irritated her husband to no end, was a bonus for her.  Maybe years of frustration on her part comes out on this novel.

Bernard fights change tooth and nail during the course of this novel.  Why wouldn’t he?  He’s lived comfortably with his wife for over thirty years being the king of his domain.  He was the breadwinner and she the homemaker.  So in his world, all was well and what good is it that Josie starts to explore her independence and different feminist points of view.  One of his major issues is that he is fighting is the change in his dynamic of relationship.  This includes his wife’s lack of leg shaving, a lack of a homemade cake for granddad’s birthday, or even her being home to make dinner is completely discombobulating for him. In the end, he comes around, but not for lack of being churlish or having to be beaten into submission into accepting the changes in his life.

We find Will’s mother in a state of complete and utter grief.  She is despondent and wholly pitiful.  I wouldn’t expect anything less.  Here was a woman who was in a powerful position as a judge, who couldn’t sway her child into wanting to live or more to the point, couldn’t buy his happiness so that he would want to live.  She was cold and conservative in the first novel.  Unfortunately, at this time we are shown how the mighty have fallen.  She gets a chance for redemption upon meeting her granddaughter, Lily.  It’s a surprise, and not one that is initially pleasant for a person who thought they were in the know of all things to do with their children.

Finally, in our cast of supporting characters from the previous novel is Stephen, Will’s father.  There isn’t much changed with Stephen’s behavior.  He’s still affable.  He’s still attempting to please his spouse.  Only, this time, he is married to his former mistress, (Daphne) and they are expecting a child.  Stephen is thrilled and nervous to hear that he has a teenage granddaughter, as a result of Will’s failed college romance.  He welcomes her with open arms, but because he is mealy-mouthed, he allows Daphne to dictate the terms of the relationship between Stephen and his granddaughter.  As per the usual, Stephen is tiptoeing around the women in his life.

We are introduced to Will’s long-lost daughter.  He was unaware of her existence because her mother was angry by the treatment she received from Will at the demise of their relationship.  However, Lily enters in like a brash, unwelcome gust of wind.  She is abrasive, as only as a teenager could be.  She self-centered in a way that only a teenager could be.  Ultimately, she’s acting on hurt, for not knowing who her biological father is to being sexually exploited by a slightly older guy and finally by her step-father’s colleague.  She gets into quite a bit of trouble throughout and it is the hallmark of an abused or wayward young woman.  She does take matters into her own hands to seek out her father’s family and specifically Louisa to figure out if her mother was completely off base or if maybe he would have wanted his unknown child.  However, her treatment of Louisa and those around her like they are there to appease her thirst for knowledge and to create a built-in family for herself is rather ridiculous and I did want to throttle her at several points in the novel.  She possibly grows the most in the novel.  Understanding that everyone is not there for her whim and her enjoyment or entertainment was quite a bit to go for this obnoxious teen.

We are also introduced to Sam, Louisa’s new love interest.  It is unfortunate, that Louisa is so withdrawn from society, that she didn’t realize that a man, other than Patrick (a social idiot) and Will (hell-bent on assisted suicide) could possibly be interested in her.  Sam is the responding paramedic to Louisa’s ill-timed accident.  He is the voice she holds on to when she fading into unconsciousness.  They run across each other quite on accident, as he is the uncle to one of the survivors’ support group members that Louisa has joined.  Unlike every other man that Louisa has been involved with, Sam is utterly selfless.  He gives Lou unconditional affection, companionship and all he asks in return is that she love him back.  I couldn’t work out if she was being deliberately obtuse or protecting herself, but some of her actions causes Sam pain, just as she had from Will.

Finally, Louisa.  Louisa, Louis, Louisa.  She fulfilled very little of Will’s wishes. She went to Paris and she got herself a flat in London and big surprise, she becomes a waitress and does basically nothing but become a sad drunk.  Thus, her accident and enter Sam.  However, she is still selfless in that she willingly helped Lily become connected to Will’s family.  She was the voice of reason when Lily went off the rails and was the sympathetic ear to both parents when discussing their current marital state.  So, Louisa is ever solid in supporting others, but still fails to move beyond her comfort zone.  That includes Will.   Sam, a perfectly nice, handsome and understanding man who doesn’t judge her for “falling” off a roof.  Nor does he judge her for still holding on to Will.  However, her unwillingness to see Sam as anything more than a boy toy is uncharacteristic for her initially.  It is as if she doesn’t feel she deserves anything good after Will.  That includes a perfect job opportunity that Nathan (nurse from initial novel) advocates for her to receive.  But Louisa, being Louisa, she will put others first every single time to only find that they only needed her temporarily.

Unfortunately, I find a bit of myself reflected in Louisa.  I’ll put others first to my detriment.  So, I can’t truly get angry with her without getting angry with myself.  I don’t believe I’m to the extreme of Louisa, but she’s a bit of all of us.  How many of us have stayed in jobs that were going nowhere because they were “comfortably” uncomfortable, the devil we know and all that?  It’s easy to shake your head and admonish Louisa for not moving on faster from Will.  However, I would imagine it was difficult since there was a deep emotional bond and no one can put a timer on the grieving process or how one will behave during the process.

Overall, this was a good read.  Some rather quirky and funny things do occur.  There are some things that makes you want to rip some people’s heads off.  Of course, there are the things that make you sad and want to tear up because you can imagine the grief, the loss and the loneliness.  Each character is flawed in his own right, but they are all doing the best they can, which can be said of any of us at any given point in time.

Since I listened to the Audible version, I’ll give a little nod to Miss Acton for her performance.  She is sufficiently Lou in her delivery and I could feel everything that was happening.

Lady Esbe listened to the Penguin Audio edition of this selection.

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