After You by Jojo Moyes

Louisa is just trying to make it through her days, which feels like an uphill battle.  Still reeling from having played a supporting role in her charge/boyfriend, Will’s assisted suicide drama, she feels judged and she continues to judge herself.  And while she’s struggled to live up to the standard she’d promised Will,  having travelled and lived in foreign countries, and is living in a new apartment (barely decorated as it is), she hasn’t really moved on.  One night, after coming home from her dead-end job as a bartender, she has a sudden, terrible accident.  This and a visit from a truly unexpected guest send her life into a whirlwind of change that may finally put her on a path to healing.

I believe the key to Jojo Moyes’ success is the warmth that permeates her characters.  She depicts this with such care, such as in descriptions of subtle movement: a nod here, a touch there, and the reader can intuit the emotions communicated in these tiny gestures.  Once you fall in love with the characters, you of course need to know what happens.  That is the key to being pulled in.

And then there is the layering of the plot, which she also does so well.  There is Louisa’s struggle to cope with her loss.  There is her parents’ issues with their marriage, given her mother’s awakened awareness of her stifled role in the family.  There is a love interest for Louisa that emerges from a support group that Louisa joins – and then the support group itself.  And her job struggle, which is very slightly comical, but really not.  And there is the surprise guest, who comprises a huge sub-plot of the story and who tortures Louisa in some ways but who also helps Louisa in many others.  And all of these plots are so smoothly woven together that the flow is natural and easy and sometimes utterly gripping.

So yes, once again, this second in the trilogy is great.  I can’t wait to read number three!

(For those of you who aren’t aware, the first in the trilogy is Me Before You.  The 3rd is Still Me.)

The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes

All Sarah knows is her world of horses and riding and her grandfather’s driving perfectionistic training, and it is a world that protects her from the poverty that immediately surrounds her.

All Natasha knows is that she has to get through the divorce that she’s up against, and it is her constant, imperative work that shields her from having to think too much about what she’s about to lose.

And then suddenly, their two worlds follow a collision course that is as unlikely and unsuitable as it is inevitable. All that is familiar to each of them is turned upside down and neither knows how it will end.  And neither does the reader until that very last page!

This book took some getting into.  Because the two main characters are both obstinate and somewhat introverted, they are difficult to get to know (and to like) – at least from this reader’s perspective.  But much like many who are quieter and take getting to know, it was worth the wait.  As the story became more and more entangled, the characters became more and more endearing somehow – I guess because they showed more of who they were. We also learned more about more of the interesting peripheral characters, some of which were exquisitely colorful.  Cowboy John, for example,  while posing as a somewhat crass, wheeler-dealer type,  actually revealed a very soft heart and was extremely tender and generous when it came to both Sarah and her grandfather, Henri.

And the plot was surprisingly surprising!  There were many punches that came out of left field and that was quite fun.  There were sad moments, heartbreaking moments, and moments when you wanted to yell at a character to warn them about what they could not see.  But that is part of the fun too, no?

A solid read, just in time for summer!  Enjoy!

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

This is the story of a painting with a past.  The Girl You Left Behind is this painting, a portrait of Sophie by her husband, who has been sent to fight for France during the first World War.  While he is away, Sophie is living with her sister, Helene, helping her run a small hotel in a tiny town outside Paris.  This town is now occupied by the Germans who are using the hotel for their nightly fare.

Fast forward to the current day and this same painting is owned by Liv, who lost her husband only four years ago and is still immobilized by this loss.  The only thing keeping her going is the hope and strength in the eyes of the woman in the portrait.  Circumstances call into question the origin of the painting and if Liv can be the rightful owner of this precious portrait. The only thing that can help Liv is to solve the mystery of the history of this painting and the actual events in the lives of the people surrounding it.

While this story is hard to read because of all the sadness – a story about war cannot be otherwise — but it is also hard to put down because the main characters are so inspiring in their sense of hope and strength.  It is also so well-written that you cannot help getting personally invested in both stories, especially as they are sewn together.

I highly recommend this book, especially for those who love historical fiction as I do!

 

Me Before You (migrated from bookblogger)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I accepted this book from a friend a little reluctantly…  who really wants to read a book about a woman who, desperately seeking a new job after her job at the coffee shop was terminated, is hired to care for a 35-year old quadriplegic?  I imagined it would be terribly depressing and predictable.  I was pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was.  This book was solidly written, delved into issues of class and love and the value of living life to its fullest, whatever that means.

The main character, Louisa Clark, is refreshingly unique and strong and struggles with her ward, Will, even as she is determined to push him to want to live in spite of his devastating injury.  In fact, each of the characters is sympathetic in his or her own way.  We briefly hear from the voices of each of the other main characters in the book, with the noted exception of that of Will.  Everyone is trying to read Will and understand his thinking and through the story we get to know him and what he struggles with on a day to day basis.  But the story is more about the development and growth of Louisa as she is exposed to him and this makes it more interesting, actually.

What I loved about this book is the juxtaposition of one who is limited in how he can live with those who are near him who, as he sees it, do not take advantage of living and do not live to their fullest potential.  I think there is a lesson for all of us AB’s (able-bodied) to think about…