After You, Jo Jo Moyes, author, Anna Acton, narrator
I want Louisa Clark to be my new best friend forever! I seriously cannot wait for this author to write the next book in this series, for surely there will be another. I simply enjoyed watching Louisa grow into a full-fledged adult, watching her character morph from a young woman with no ambition, no dreams, into a woman who will take risks, fall in love, reunite with her family, show compassion and courage, and manage to keep all things in perspective, much to her own surprise. I liked the way the author used flashbacks in the narrative to help those who read the first book “Me Before You”, to recall the basic story, and to also introduce it to those who had not. I want to have another window into Louisa’s next stage of life. Many months after the suicide of Will Traynor, the man for whom Louisa was a caregiver, she still mourns the loss. She loved him and her grief has overwhelmed her. She moved to London with the help of the money he left her, but has not, as he had wished, begun to “live life”. She tried to travel, but she gave up quickly. She did not return to school. She works in an airport bar, pretty much a dead end path forward. After she falls from the roof of her building in a freak accident, she requires weeks of healing. Many suspect that she was so despondent that she jumped. She returns home to her family and begins to enjoy the safety of their company and concern. Her sister, Treena, kept encouraging Lou to return to school, to get a better job, to stop living at home if she didn’t have to, because Treena felt that her own life was truly a dead end and she wanted more for her sister. What hope did she have as an unmarried mother with a good university degree but no job prospects? When Louisa returns to her own apartment, flat as it is called in the book, to try and return to her life and job, she discovers the 16-year daughter of Will Traynor. Her first shock is that he never told her about Lily, and her second is that this young girl had been on her fire escape once before, the fire escape leading to her roof and her accident. The two of them develop a relationship which is sometimes fiery as well as loving, sometimes combative and dysfunctional as Lily experiences teenage angst and feelings of insecurity and isolation. When she begins grief counseling, she meets Jake, a 16 year old teenager. Walking with him, she meets the man who came to pick him up from the session. She recognizes him. He is Sam, the ambulance driver who held her hand after she was seriously wounded in her traumatic fall from the roof. He kept encouraging her to stay alive. Soon, a relationship begins to flower between them. The character, Louisa, is defined by her compassion, her sense of responsibility for others, her genuine feeling for their welfare and her quirkiness. Lily’s character is at first defined by lying, stealing, inappropriate comments and angry outbursts. Her need to feel wanted and loved has made her a manipulator who acts out inappropriately when she feels threatened. With Louisa’s help, she grows into a more responsible teenager who can function quite well in the new world in which she begins to live. I loved this fairytale. It introduced so many interesting threads, feminism, juvenile delinquency, pedophilia, alcoholism and recovery from grief. It does veer off in many extraneous directions, but all of the twists and turns come together and are resolved in a satisfying conclusion. Josie, Lou’s mom, discovers women’s rights, her sister Treena loses her spoiled attitude and acknowledges her own failures, Georgiana, Will’s sister becomes less self-centered and more interested in her extended family, the Traynors embrace their newfound grandchild, and Louisa begins life anew at the same time that Lily begins to follow a more positive path. Yes, this novel is like an adult fairytale, but it is one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Jojo Moyes writes in a clear style with a touch of humor that is so well balanced that even the most traumatic scenes are tolerable. The narrator was excellent. She invited me into the story and held me there, thoroughly engaged as she brought each character to life.