Wednesday, 11 November 2015

After You

Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: e-book
Series: #2 in the Me Before You series
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Penguin Group Viking (Pamela Dorman Books)
First Published: September 29, 2015
First Line: "The big man at the end of the bar is sweating."

Book Description from GoodReadsHow 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.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: Almost three years ago I read the mega hit Me Before You and I was smitten with the relationship between Lou and Will.  The book was touching, funny and heartbreakingly emotional.  I'm talking about the kind of book that makes you have an 'ugly cry' while reading it.  It was amazing.

When I heard that Moyes had written a sequel I had two reactions - utter glee and trepidation.  I would get to reconnect with characters I loved but could this sequel live up to my high expectations?  Did I need to know what happened to Lou?  Could Moyes write another highly emotional book?

I did enjoy this book.  Quite a lot, actually.  And while it isn't the emotional rollercoaster/sob fest that MBY was, it had a quieter, simmering emotion to it.  It wasn't as sad as MBY (I don't think there could be a sadder book, honestly) but the emotion in this book stems from seeing Lou (and another character) falter and struggle to fit in.  To belong, each in their own ways.  The emotion I felt the most was hope followed closely by frustration and sometimes anger.  It was hard to see Lou struggle and be taken advantage of or to witness the antithesis of a good parent (man, I hated that mother!).  You feel for Lou and her loss and you see how her family, particularly her sister Treena, struggle to help her move on with her life.

“Moving on doesn't mean you loved [him] any less, you know.”

My favourite part of the book is the introduction of a new character.  I loved that Moyes kept the main part of the plot hidden from readers in the book summary because when the surprising addition of this character was introduced I didn't see it coming.  And I loved that this new twist took the book in a direction that I wasn't expecting.

Lou was once again a solid main character.  You're concerned for her.  You root for her.  She's still a bit of a goofball but she was also believably bereft with her pain, loss and sadness.  Even so, at times it was hard to read about how she struggled and some of the decisions she made that cast her as the proverbial doormat. Should Lou stay in her comfort zone and continue on in the safe, albeit boring, life she's made in the past two years and run the risk of letting new opportunities pass her by?  Lou is once again surrounded by her quirky family as well as a good cast of secondary characters, specifically her grief support group which showcased many different kinds and stages of grief. With the support of her family and new friends Lou slowly, and sometimes painfully, finds out who she is without Will.  

Moyes writing, once again, has a very easy feel to it.  It slowly draws you in and hangs onto you even through the occasionally hard to read passages.  I like that she doesn't spend a lot of this book focusing on MBY but gives After You it's own two feet to stand on.

After You is a book about struggling with grief after losing someone you've loved so deeply. It shows how grief affects so many facets of your day to day life that it can sometimes be paralyzing.  How learning to take chances on new happiness means putting oneself in risk to be hurt again.  It's a book about family in all its different forms.  It's about second chances and learning to let go of the pain enough to get back on your feet and live the life your loved one would want for you.

Moyes took a big risk following up Me Before You.  I've heard that she hadn't planned to write a sequel but her fans really pushed for it.  I think After You was a good way to find out what happened to Lou.  Her pain felt real and while this wasn't as emotional as MBY it was a very satisfying ending.

My Rating: 4 stars

Favourite Quote“I’ve thought about it a lot. You learn to live with it, with them. Because they do stay with you, even if they’re not living, breathing people anymore. It’s not the same crushing grief you felt at first, the kind that swamps you and makes you want to cry in the wrong places and get irrationally angry with all the idiots who are still alive when the person you love is dead. It’s just something you learn to accommodate. Like adapting around a hole. I don’t know. It’s like you become . . . a doughnut instead of a bun.” 

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