With Me Before You, Jojo Moyes crafted a millennial Love Story – a weepy tale of two individuals from very different walks of life who find, first, vague irritation, and later, love, as they discover purpose in each other and their own visions of how to build a meaningful life. Here, instead of cancer, the hero, Will Traynor, is a quadriplegic intent on ending his own life after becoming paralyzed (a fact which rightfully drew much ire from the disabled community) and the heroine, Louisa Clark, is his cheery, well-meaning caretaker. Two novels later, Louisa is back in Still Me, embarking on a new life across the pond as an assistant to a wealthy Fifth Avenue wife in New York City.
As Louisa has matured and grown, so too have Moyes’ novels, resulting in the best entry in the Me Before You trilogy yet. Here, Moyes seeks to plumb what it truly means to find oneself and build a life alongside others rather than solely in service to them. Louisa heads to New York under the employ of the Gopnik family. Finding herself enmeshed in the secrets and lies of Mr. Gopnik’s well-meaning yet selfish second wife, Agnes, Louisa begins to lose sight of the things that matter to her, including her penchant for vibrant, vintage clothing and her relatively new paramedic boyfriend back home in London. The challenges (and heartbreak) she faces in the city that doesn’t sleep push her outside her comfort zone and onto genuinely unpredictable avenues. Steadily maintaining her huge heart and sense of compassion while meeting new friends along the way, Louisa learns how to build a life that is truly hers alone.
Past characters pop up with enough frequency to satisfy the most devoted readers, while Moyes’ ability to craft utterly unique and delightful new characters that spring off the page remains. New figures range from kind, socially engaged doorman Ashok to Margot De Witt, Louisa’s cranky elderly neighbor who becomes an unexpected ally and friend. A cross between Iris Apfel and an infinitely kindlier Norma Desmond, Margot is a touching tribute to women who must grapple with the personal cost (and reward!) of prizing one’s career and desires over societal expectation and domesticity. Her story, running in tandem to that of Agnes, serves as a crisp, well-timed reminder to Louisa of the gap between the interior lives of women and the public face they must present.
Louisa herself is a heroine with whom you could spend endless hours – her generosity of spirit, sincerity, and gently self-deprecating inner monologue make it obvious why Moyes and readers have stuck with her through three books. For fans of the previous novels, Moyes has crafted a worthy conclusion to her trilogy, offering a finale brimming with pathos and warmth. At last, Louisa, and Moyes in turn, faces up to the challenge of boldly seeing inside her own heart as she works to make an ordinary life something extraordinary. Even if you haven’t read the previous entries in the trilogy, there’s still much to be gleaned from these pages. Where Me Before You occasionally drifted into manipulative sentimentality, here Moyes has crafted a clear-eyed tale of self-discovery and the sacrifice required to live a life honestly in pursuit of the things you love. All the while delivering enough romantic gestures and small acts of compassion via the lens of Louisa’s refreshing earnestness to keep you sighing with delight to the very last page. A