*I was not paid to read and review this book, but if you want to click on the link below to purchase it, I will be grateful for the money received.
When I started writing these book reviews, I never planned on diving deep into any of my fiction reads. Let’s be honest, most of the books I choose are written for teenage girls and rarely have any discussion-worthy themes. However, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You since I finished it last month. Maybe writing down my thoughts here will help me process.
For those of you unfamiliar with this book, Me Before You is the story of a 26-year-old woman named Lou whose family’s financial situation forces her to take a position caring for a quadriplegic named Will, who lived a grand, adventurous life before a motorcycle wreck left him paralyzed from the neck down. I fell in love with both of these characters and all their little quirks, and I think Moyes did an excellent job at character development in this book.
I’m going to do my best not to spoil the ending, but I wanted to share my main observation, and that is: How different would this story be if the characters knew Jesus? Do you ever find yourself wondering the same? This novel addresses several political/moral issues, but the main question that repeated itself again and again to me was, “What makes life meaningful?”
For Will, it was the ability to throw himself out of airplanes and climb mountains and close business deals and woo every woman in the room. He found meaning in the adventure, in new challenges and experiences.
For Lou, it was the opposite. She found meaning in the familiar, in knowing what to expect from the day. She wasn’t interested in promotions or grand vacations or even what was happening in the next town away, but chose to surround herself with what was comfortable.
Obviously, the situation called for both to let go of the things they found meaningful. Will’s big world was now confined to a small tourist town and Lou was forced to leave the familiarity of her long-term employment for a new and very uncomfortable position. However, as the characters grow and try to adapt to this new way of things, the question is revisited time and time again.
Coincidently (or not), the Sunday after I finished this book our pastor gave a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 titled “The Most Meaningful Life.” You can listen to it here if you wish. We looked at the “love” chapter in an entirely new light, and if I’m honest, the message is quite frightening. Because Paul is saying… it doesn’t matter how many mountains you’ve climbed, business deals you’ve closed, promotions you’ve received, sinners you’ve converted, starving children you’ve fed, if you do not love, you’re life is meaningless.
For someone who is so task-oriented, this is a difficult truth to swallow. Like Will, I tend to think the value of my life is found in how many picturesque moments I can string together. That when I draw my last breath, my meaning will be measured in the number of photos on my Instagram feed. But did you see all the places I traveled? How about the shows I attended? And brunch! Man, I can take an awesome picture of pancakes – doesn’t that count for something?
But God says that your life’s meaning will be measured by how well you loved others. Did you respond to your coworkers with patience? Were you kind to your siblings? Did you envy your best friend’s shoe collection? Were you rude to your waitress? Did you prioritize your ways, your preferences, your needs above all else?
The title alone – Me Before You – kind of implies that this book isn’t about selfless love. In fact, it blatantly points out how even acts that seem selfless can be born from selfishness. So, obviously, this story would have a very different ending if Will and Lou possessed a Christian worldview. In fact, it might not have been much of a story at all.
But it does force you to consider what exactly is worth living for – and as cliche as it might sound – the answer is love.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When i was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Have you read Me Before You? What did you think? Where do you tend to find meaning in life?
Author’s Note: If you enjoy making yourself cry, you can watch the trailer to the movie of this book here. But fair warning, it spoils 98% of the story.