me before you

why i wanted to read it: i’d assumed that because so many were appreciative of the thing, it must be good. and so i bought it and tried it and set it aside because it bored me. and then for erin’s book challenge (if you’ve not signed up for that thing yet, you should totally do it), one of the categories one time was a book with a pronoun in the title, so i tried again and set it aside again. and then i saw the trailer several weeks ago, and hearing the actors’ voices in my head made it a little easier to get through the thing.

what i liked: from louisa’s perspective: i watched relationships begin and end across those tables… (p. 8).

“black and yellow stripes.”

“gorgeous.”

“that’s a bit harsh.”

“well, it’s true. they sound revolting.”

“they might sound revolting to you, but astonishingly, will traynor, not all girls get dressed just to please men.”

“bullshit.”

“no, it’s not.”

“everything women do is with men in mind. everything anyone does is with sex in mind. haven’t you read ‘the red queen’?”

“i have no idea what you’re talking about. but i can assure you, i’m not sitting on your bed singing the ‘molahonkey song’ because i’m trying to get my leg over” (p. 84).

the first time we went out on a date, a little voice in my head said: this man will never hurt you. and nothing he had done in the seven years since had lead me to doubt it. 

and then he turned into marathon man.

patrick’s stomach no longer gave when i nestled into him; it was a hard, unforgiving thing, like a sideboard… (p. 89).

i wanted him to be happy — for his face to lose that haunted, watchful look. i gabbled. i told jokes. i started to hum. anything to prolong the moment before he looked grim again (97).

i thought about the warm skin and soft hair and hands of someone living, someone who was far cleverer and funnier than i would ever be and who still couldn’t see a better future than to obliterate himself (p. 123).

from camilla’s: after will’s accident i didn’t garden for a year. it wasn’t just the time… it was that i could see no point. i paid a gardener to come and keep the garden tidy, and i don’t think i gave it anything but the most cursory of looks for the better part of a year.

it was only when we brought will back home, once the annex was adapted and ready, that i could see a point in making it beautiful again. i needed to give my son something to look at. i needed to tell him, silently, that things might change, grow, or fail, but that life did go on. that we were all part of some great cycle, some pattern that it was only god’s purpose to understand. i couldn’t say that to him, of course — will and i have never been able to say much to each other — but i wanted to show him. a silent promise, if you like, that there was a bigger picture, a brighter future (pp. 106-107).

when will first told me what he wanted, he had to tell me twice, as i was quite sure i could not have have heard him correctly the first time. i stayed quite calm when i realized what it was he was proposing, and then i told him he was being ridiculous and i walked straight out of the room. it’s an unfair advantage, being able to walk away from a man in a wheelchair… i shut the door of the annex and i stood in my own hallway with the calmly spoken words of my son still ringing in my ears.

i’m not sure i moved for half an hour.

he refused to let it go… he repeated his request every time i went in to see him until i almost had to persuade myself to go in each day…

it’s just that the thing you never understand about being a mother, until you are one, is that it is not the grown man — the galumphing, unshaven, stinking, opinionated offspring — you see before you, with his parking tickets and his unpolished shoes and complicated love life. you see all the people he has ever been all rolled up into one.

i looked at will and i saw the baby i held in my arms… i saw the toddler reaching for my hand… the schoolboy weeping tears of fury after being bullied by some other child. i saw the vulnerabilities, the love, the history. that’s what he was asking me to extinguish — the small child he was as well as the man — all that love, all that history.

he had located a rusty nail, barely half an inch emerging from some hurriedly finished woodwork in the back lobby, and, pressing his wrist against it, had moved his wheelchair backward and forward until his flesh was sliced to ribbons. i cannot to this day imagine the determination that kept him going, even though he must have been half delirious from the pain.

when they told me at the hospital that will would live, i walked outside into my garden and i raged at god, at nature, at whatever fate had brought our family to such depths… i was so furious, you see, that all around me were things that could move and bend and grow and reproduce, and my son — my vital, charismatic, beautiful boy — was just this thing. immobile, wilted, bloodied, suffering. their beauty seemed like an obscenity. i screamed and i screamed and i swore — words i didn’t know i knew — until steven came out and stood, his hand resting on my shoulder, waiting until he could be sure that i would be silent again.

he didn’t understand, you see. he hadn’t worked it out yet. that will would try again. that our lives would have to be spent in a state of constant vigilance, waiting for the next time, waiting to see what horror he would inflict upon himself. we would have to see the world through his eyes — the potential poisons, the sharp objects, the inventiveness with which he could finish the job that damned motorcyclist had started. our lives had to shrink to fit around the potential for that one act. and he had the advantage — he had nothing else to think about, you see.

two weeks later, i told will, “yes.”

of course i did.

what else could i have done (pp. 109-111).

what sucked: it’s about a hundred pages longer than it needs to be, and, this is a personal preference, i would’ve rather the novel have more dialogue, that moyes would’ve used more of that tool as a mechanism for telling the story.

having said that: it’s alright. i liked the movie better…

side note: in one of the concluding chapters, moyes includes a report detailing the legal ramifications of will’s choice: there is no evidence of mental illness… (p. 363).

the surgeries i’ve had in my life have blinded me… i’ve had three on my eyes, and while i don’t know the duration of the recovery period for the first two because they’d occurred in infancy, the third had only blinded me for a period of twenty-four hours, but toward the end of that period, i was bordering on delusional. three other surgeries have severely affected the use of my legs. two of them have resulted in my having to learn to walk and ride a bicycle and do all sorts of other things again and again. and i’m sure at some point, i’ll have to do it again, and it will be worse, because i was in my twenties then… my body was in much better shape.

i’m limited, physically, in other ways, but they are so, so slight. they are not things i can’t live with.

these physical things i endure, they’re not tragic.

i read that line, though… no evidence of mental illness… and was put off by it.

as if the brain can’t be in pain. the mind can’t. as if a person’s life can’t be horribly, monumentally crippled in ways unseen by others. as if post traumatic stress disorder and post concussive disorder and traumatic brain injury and depression aren’t godawful, debilitating forces. as if these things can’t mentally paralyze a person.

i’m tired of people thinking just because someone can get up out of bed, put on some clothes, get in a car, go to work and come home in the evening to family and friends… that because their bodies can physically function, they shouldn’t be afforded the same consideration as those who bodies don’t.

i am sick to death of this society that belittles mental illness.

it’s perfectly okay to put a dog or a horse down… but a human, we’d prefer they suffer in a physical or mental hell… because only god can decide when a man should die. i call bullshit.

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2 comments

  1. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder several years ago. About a year after that, even with medication and therapy, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation. Should I have been allowed to kill myself because my brain was sick?

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