Thursday, October 1, 2015

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You by Jojo Moyes
Release Date - September 29, 2015
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  368 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for honest review from the publisher**


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected.
When After You was first announced I was both overjoyed and hesitant. I fell in deep book love with Me Before You and fell hard. It is one of my most favourite books, and the love story within it's pages is truly iconic. I didn't want anything to taint that experience for me. While those who love Lou, her family, and the Traynors will delight in returning to their story, this novel perhaps works better if viewed as a separate story from Me Before You.

This novel feels like catching up with old friends. There is an ease and familiarity in coming back to their story. The connection is already formed, and you instantly remember how much you loved them. I missed these characters and didn't quite realize how much until I was reading the next chapter in their journey. I am not sure this sequel was necessary to their story but it ends up becoming entirely welcome. As soon as you're immersed back into Lou's world, you'll immediately be thankful you get to read these next chapter in her story.

Lou is barely keeping it together when we first see her. That feeling she had in Paris, the one of possibilities about the future has been snuffed out by grief. She was going to go and follow Will's wishes and live her life to the fullest, but grief has weighted down that buoyant hope. This is the story of Lou working her way through that grief. It's a story of her learning to live with the loss of Will while not being crippled by it. It's a very bittersweet story and Lou's journey spans anger, sadness, guilt, and even moments of happiness. Jojo Moyes perfectly captures the vast array of emotions grief can instil in someone. It's one of the most poignant parts of the novel.

Will feels both everywhere and nowhere within these pages. It creates this gaping hole that never quite felt like it was filled by the end of the novel. The spark that was so evident in Me Before You felt like it was missing from After You. That spark was Will. That spark was Will and Lou. That lightening in a bottle type of magic just wasn't here for me. The magic of Me Before You was the relationship between Will and Lou, and that was all the more evident in reading this follow up. The most touching moments, the moments that made the most impact, were the moments involving Will and Lou and their love. Nothing else in this novel came close to that emotional impact for me, particularly not the new romance. While I rooted for Lou's happiness, I never became invested in the new man in her life. I found him underdeveloped and almost an afterthought to her story.

This may sound like a mostly sad read, but there are moments of humour that stand out as bright spots in the novel. There are some side plots that allow for some delightfully funny moments that offset the sadness that encompasses everything else. There are plenty of cameos of people from Me Before You, particularly a fantastic scene involving Patrick, that showcase Jojo Moyes comedic skills to their fullest.

After You, as a stand alone novel, is every bit as wonderful as you would expect it to be. However, for me at least, I am not sure it works as a follow up to Me Before You. It's a bittersweet novel filled with grief, moving on, and opening yourself up again and one that is filled with the trademark heart, humour and nuance you would expect from Jojo Moyes.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful review! I'm still somewhat torn on whether or not to pick up this novel. I had an incredibly personal connection to Me Before You (my dad has a spinal cord injury that's almost identical to Will's, but he has had a much more positive experience in adapting to his new way of life), and the ending of the book absolutely destroyed me. I kind of want to keep the book up on that pedestal, knowing that it's one of my favourite books of all time, you know?


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