Review: Me Before You

Me Before You
Me Before You
By Jojo Moyes
(Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143124542, July 2013, 400pp.)

The Short of It:

Smart, funny, heartwarming and yes, a bit gut-wrenching. I was warned to not read it in public due to its sob-inducing content but it doesn’t really matter where you read it, as long as you read it!

The Rest of It:

It’s difficult for 35-year-old Will Traynor to accept his quadriplegic status. Prior to being struck by a motorcycle, he traveled all over the world living life to the fullest. But his days and nights are now spent reliant on others. Nathan, his primary caregiver, takes care of his medical needs, but when his family sees how despondent he is about his current condition and the fact that’s he’s attempted to kill himself once already, they intervene by hiring a secondary caregiver by the name of Louisa Clark.

Louisa (Lou) is a struggling 26-year-old. Having just lost her job, her prospects are slim and having to support her father, mother and sister forces her to consider jobs that she normally would not give a second thought to. When she’s sent to interview for a caregiver position, she gives it a go, not realizing what her true purpose will be, which is essentially to give Will a reason to live again.

Tall order, huh?

At first, Lou has no idea what her job is. She’s there to be a companion to Will and to watch him when Nathan is not around. Although she feels awkward around Will. she quickly realizes what she’s been tasked with and after a minor freak-out, she embraces it. Albeit, not all that confidently at first, but after getting to know Will and what he’s all about, she feels sure that she can sway his position on life in general.

I think the success of this book, has a lot to do with Lou as a character. She’s efficient but in a bumbling sort of way. Not perfect, but her flaws make for some entertaining reading. Her too tight skirts and odd sense of style are endearing but her genuine concern over Will is what makes this entire situation a bitter pill to swallow. Her dedication to him and yes, her eventual love for him prove to be very challenging obstacles, but ones that she is willing to push through in order to get the result she wants.

What makes this story even more special, is that it’s as much about Lou, as it is about Will. From the moment Will sees Lou, he knows why she’s there. Even though he’s chair bound, he realizes he’s in the perfect position to see that Lou (he calls her Clark) lives the life that he cannot. Through new experiences, some they make together and some Lou manages on her own, the two manage to add a little bit of adventure to their day-to-day existence.

Through it all, you can’t help but be reminded of Will’s precarious health. His inability to regulate his body temperature, his increased risk for infection and his drastic mood swings are all reminders of what they are up against. In the middle of happiness, comes heartache and it’s so incredibly difficult to understand how a life can change so drastically in such a short amount of time. The unfairness of it all will leave you shaking your head and if you’re the type to cry while reading, you will definitely well-up with this one.

This is the type of read that will take you through all of the emotions. I was happy, sad, disappointed and mad. There were times when I wanted nothing else but to curse Will’s mother or shake some common sense into Will, but all in all, the experience of reading this book was like spending time with dear friends. It took me forever to pick it up because I really considered it to be straight-up romance and it’s really, so much more than that.

If you haven’t picked it up yet, you must! The cost of care and the use and availability of assisted-suicide are some of the weightier issues included in this novel. Will is rich, so the cost of his care is not really an issue but I imagine it would be for a lot of folks in the same situation. My book club chose not to read Me Before You but I think we missed out on a good discussion opportunity because there is plenty to discuss with this one.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via a blog giveaway. Thanks Jean!
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Dept. of Speculation

Dept of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation
By Jenny Offill
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385350815, January 2014, 192pp.)

The Short of It:

Dept. of Speculation is a glittery, moving entity that grabs the reader quickly with its sharp and lovely prose.

The Rest of It:

This novel is quite different from anything I’ve read before. Reading it, was like gazing into a prism. It dazzled me with its simplicity and had me rereading passages every time I turned a page.

The story is told by the Narrator, who later becomes The Wife. She marries, has a child and then when the marriage begins to fall apart, she quietly observes the destruction almost as if she is a stranger on the outside, looking in. Infidelity plays a large role, as does the exhaustion that comes with raising a child. But in the midst of the not-so-good, is the good. The smell of her baby’s head, the way her husband used to look at her, the fact that they’ve come this far, even with all of the angst. There is something to be said for working through your problems, and that is what The Wife does, in her own head, as she carefully weighs what’s important to her.

Before getting married, we possess a sense of self. We know who we are and most often, what we hope to be. But once married, that plan or that sense of self often doesn’t pan out or changes into something else. That is the case here. With marriage, comes experience and life lessons and when we have children, we learn from that experience as well and it changes us. It would be impossible for it not to.

This book captures that moment of when Me, becomes We and then back again. Don’t let the book’s length fool you either. It’s short but packed with meaning. There’s plenty to reflect on here and although it certainly deals with the struggle that lots of married couples experience, it’s hopeful and tinged with the promise of something better.

Dept. of Speculation is a lovely read. I highly recommend it. Oh, and if you don’t read it, I may have to stop talking to you. I just threw that in to see who’s paying attention.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park
By Rainbow Rowell
(St. Martin’s Griffin, Hardcover, 9781250012579, February 2013, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

You know when you were in school and drew hearts all over everything to express your love for a particular thing or person? Well, if I could actually bring myself to write in a book, there would be hearts all over this one.

The Rest of It:

Eleanor, an awkward, “big girl” with crazy red hair, lives at home with her numerous siblings, her mother and her abusive stepfather. She’s poor. Poor enough to learn how to make do with what she has, and often, what she has is very little. Her crazy outfits make her the butt of everyone’s jokes and the morning bus ride to school is made worse by the fact that no one wants to sit next to her.

However, none of this goes unnoticed by Park. Park observes Eleanor from afar, before offering up the seat next to him. Half-Korean and in a circle of his own, Park is not popular, but not unpopular either. He’s able to blend, mostly because he grew up with these kids. There is a degree of respect for him, so once Eleanor accepts the next to him, the atmosphere changes ever so slightly. Hesitant to talk at first, the two bond over comic books. When Park notices that she’s reading his comic books as they lay open in his lap, he begins to bring them just for her. What happens next is nothing short of magic. These two unlikely characters forge a friendship, which eventually becomes love. Through music and comic books, they come together and once Park gets close enough to know Eleanor’s true story, he does everything in his power to save her.

Sometimes, I think the success of a book comes down to how well an author captures a feeling. Reading this book was like living my high school years all over again and I mean that in a good way. Even with all of the teen angst, the high school years are the ones that stick with you. Am I right? Good, bad, ugly. It’s the stuff of memories and that is why I enjoyed this book so much. Rowell’s ability to strip the characters down to their most vulnerable state is what makes this book so readable and probably why the characters felt so real to me.

I loved Eleanor’s awkwardness but I think I loved Park’s pragmatic approach to life even more. And his parents? So awesome. Loving, supportive parents who aren’t perfect. Sure, there was a heavy dose of sap when it came to the romance itself, but that’s how it is when you are young. You can’t wait to see each other and you do nothing but obsess about it until you do. Rowell captures it all beautifully.

One bonus to reading this book is that it’s set in the 80′s and the musical references are like whipped cream added to a sundae. Delightful! I grew up in the 80′s so that entire decade is near and dear to my heart but this book has a little something for everyone. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go Bernadette

Where’d You Go. Bernadette
By Maria Semple
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316204279, July 2012, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Funny, sweet and a little sad but oh so rewarding to read.

The Rest of It:

Everyone has read this book, I know. Except, I never read books when everyone else is reading them so it’s no surprise that I am writing about it now when most of the world has already discovered this gem. But on the off-chance that there is someone who hasn’t read it, then… well, you must read it.

Bernadette Fox falls into the “eccentric” category. She’s married to a man who spends most of his hours at work, Microsoft to be exact and her home, far from traditional, is a sore point to many of the Seattle moms that live near her. She doesn’t participate in any of the school activities and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Bee is perfectly okay with that. But Bernadette is more than a little different. Once a famous architect, she has become somewhat of a recluse by choosing to hang out in the camper she’s set-up in her yard just for that purpose.

Deep down, she knows that she’s missing out on what life has to offer, but with her personal assistant, who is supposedly from India, she manages to live this life, restricted as it is. When she needs something, she just sends an email and it’s taken care of. What she can’t figure out, is how to get out of a family trip to Antarctica. At Bee’s request, they’ve planned a vacation of a lifetime but when things at home spiral out of control, Bernadette goes missing.

This is one of those crazy books that you can’t help but love. Bernadette is way, way out there but when she goes missing, you see the true effect she has on the people surrounding her. Bee, loves her mother unconditionally and finds herself frustrated with her father’s lack of urgency over the situation. As Bee attempts to find her, I began to really see who Bernadette was and how she lost her sense of self over the years.

At this point of the story, I was heartbroken over Bee’s loss. As a reader, you just don’t know what to think. I listened to some of the story on audio and it was heart wrenching! Both the book and the audio are filled with emotional moments, but also some very funny ones which is what keeps it light. But don’t let the playful cover fool you, there are some serious themes here. Bernadette’s sense of isolation, her inability to see herself as a person, depression and her marriage which is clearly in need of some help, all manage to make this a book of substance. This would make a fabulous book club pick as there is a lot to talk about.

I really enjoyed this book and I enjoyed the characters as well. Bee, will always have a special place in my heart, as will Bernadette. They are both so complex but at the same time, so likable. Every minute that I spent with this book was a minute well-spent.

Have you read it?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781476729084, October 2013, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

I don’t read love stories too often but this one is a gem! Sheldon Cooper fans will be able to relate to this one.

The Rest of It:

Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, is trying to find a wife. Except, how does one do that when your entire life is surrounded by science and scientific evidence? You create a survey of course! Don’s survey is to rule out incompatible mates. His friends Gene and Claudia are about the only two people who understand him, and they assist him in finding the perfect mate. Not an easy task when your expectations are so high.

If you happen to be a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you’ll immediately fall in love with this book. Why? Because Don is just like Sheldon Cooper. His mannerisms and his lack of social skills make Don endearing and a major pain in the butt, but sort of charming at the same time.

While trying to find the perfect wife, he meets Rosie. She is a far cry from what he is looking for, but helping her find her real father is something he can do with his eyes closed. So, the two pair up to find her real dad.

What a sweet story! Don is one of those guys that is adorable and a pain in the ass at the same time. So much of what he does is totally reasonable if you pick it apart, but to the average person, he’s uptight, too rigid and bordering on OCD. But did I mention that he’s charming? I wanted to shrink him down and carry him around in my pocket. No lie.

Plus, Rosie is pretty cool too. She’s more complex than you think and the interactions between the two of them are GOLDEN. I mean, there really is some good stuff here. This is an honest, witty, funny and sometimes hysterical take on finding that perfect someone.

I read it on one sitting and was so sad to turn that last page. I heard that a sequel is in the works and it’s already been optioned for film. Many have been hearing about the book but not many have been picking it up. Please do! It’s such a gem that I may have to break down and buy my own copy.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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