Who doesn’t enjoy a great love story?
I’ll admit it—I’m a total sucker for those cheesy teenage love stories, despite the fact no one in the real world would ever put a cigarette in their mouth, not light the damn thing and then use it as a metaphor for cancer. At least, no one did until The Fault in Our Stars was released.
As cute and romantic as books and movies like The Fault in Our Stars may be, the characters just simply could not exist in the real world.
Don’t get me wrong.
I enjoyed John Green’s novel. I read the book, watched the movie and cried in both cases.
I like Green, but his books just simply aren’t real. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fiction—you shouldn’t have to expect it to translate to reality.
But if you do want characters you could imagine seeing in real life, a brutally honest love story with a couple of laughs along the way, read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
The story centers around eccentric and awkward Louisa Clark, or Lou, in an English town. After she loses her job, she’s forced to find new employment to support her family. She eventually lands a gig as a caretaker for Will Traynor, a quadriplegic.
The only problem is he’s a total jerk.
Fast forward a few weeks and they form a tentative friendship. Then Lou overhears Will’s parents and sister talking about his interest in going to Dignitas, a clinic that performs assisted-suicide.
She discovers that Will had made a deal with his parents. Give his parents six more months, and then they would take him to Dignitas.
Upon learning this, Lou decides she’s going spend the rest of his six months trying to change his mind.
As she spends more time with him, she falls in love.
Although he never explicitly says “I love you” back, you can tell he does love her … but it’s not enough for him to want to continue living.
Let me backtrack a little.
Before a terrible motorcycle accident, Will was a successful businessman. He lived adventurously through traveling, mountain climbing and extreme sports.
Then the accident happens. His life is now bound to a wheelchair, endless hospital visits and a plethora of pills.
He explains to Lou, or Clark as he calls her, his decision.
“You never saw me before this thing. I loved my life, Clark, really loved it. I loved my jobs, my travels, the things I was. I loved being a physical person. I liked riding my motorbike, hurling myself off great heights. I liked crushing people in business deals.
I liked having sex. Lots of sex. I led a big life.
I am not designed to exist in this thing—and yet for all intents and purposes it is now the thing that defines me. It is the only thing that defines me.”
Moyes handles this difficult topic tremendously well and doesn’t fall into the trope that love can conquer all.
Will does go to Dignitas. He does die. It is, without a doubt, depressing.
I shed more than a few tears reading this book.
What’s amazing about the novel, though, is Lou’s character. Of course she doesn’t want Will to die, but she realizes that it is the only thing that would make him truly happy. Even though she doesn’t agree with his decision, she is still there for him when he dies.
In the end, she knows it is Will’s choice to make, not hers nor his family’s.
Respecting his choice to die is her ultimate expression of love for him.
Although euthanasia is a very controversial topic, this book explores the intricacies of living with an incurable condition. It offers insight into the reasons why someone with a serious illness might consider euthanasia.
In the U.S., it’s only legal in five states. Most recently, California passed right-to-die legislation that will be enacted later this year.
According to a Gallup poll conducted last May, nearly 68 percent of Americans said they support doctor-assisted suicide.
Euthanasia is not the choice of every person with a severe disease, but everyone with these illnesses should at least have the liberty of making that choice themselves.
As Moyes beautifully portrays in her novel, love is putting someone else’s needs before your own.
You don’t always get to go on amazing adventures with your boyfriend in Amsterdam to meet the author of your favorite book just because you’re sick (sorry, John Green fans). You don’t always get to make love with the person you love. That doesn’t mean that love is any less powerful.
Sometimes you need to make impossible sacrifices for the people you love. That’s what true love is, and that’s why Will and Lou’s love story is heartbreakingly beautiful.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ginny’s Flickr account.
Rosie Kean is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.