”Sometimes I felt as if we were all wading around in grief, reluctant to admit to others how far we were waving or drowning.”
Okay, before I start this review I have to admit three things:
1.) “After You” wasn’t what I expected it to be and headed into a completely different direction than I assumed.
2.) I think Jojo Moyes was very brave to go into this kind of direction and I appreciate her realistic approach.
3.) This might turn out to be a rather personal and subjective review.
I know it would be easy to say that I didn’t like Louisa in this book and a lot of reviewers before me actually did. They said they didn’t like how much she changed, that the happy girl was gone, that she wasted the gift Will had given her, that she was merely existing and not living her dream. Not doing, what Will wanted her to do before he died.
“Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live.”
But what a lot of readers didn’t get – and I’m glad they didn’t seem to get it because I’m speaking from personal experience here and I truly wish no one to make an experience like that– is that she was grieving. Yes, Will’s death didn’t come unexpected. It was planned, they all knew it would happen but that didn’t change anything about the fact that she loved him and that he still decided to go. I wasn’t surprised that Lou is a mess at the beginning of this book, I wasn’t surprised, that she didn’t see the world like she planned to, that she didn’t live her dream. Because honestly: How could she? The person she loved, her first and one true love was dead and there was nothing she could have done to stop him, nothing that would have changed his mind.
”How could I explain to this girl what Will and I had been to each other, the way I felt that no person in the world had ever understood me like he did or ever would again? How could she understand that losing him was like having a hole shot straight through me, a painful, constant reminder, an absence I could never fill?”
To lose the person you love? It changes you, it alters your perception, it makes you realize how short life is, it forces you to acknowledge that you won’t live forever, that everything could be over in nothing but a second. You know that you should move on, because life moves on regardless if you want it to or not. If there’s one thing death teaches you, then it’s that life is merciless and doesn’t pause for the living!
”So what was the hardest part?” Mr Gopnik said.
“Of working for William Traynor. It sounds like quite a challenge.”
I hesitated. The room was suddenly very quiet. “Letting him go.” I said. And found myself unexpectedly biting back tears.
So, yes Louisa is a mess! She’s still so very young and innocent and has to deal with the loss of the man who stole her heart. Of course this experience changed her, of course she isn’t the same person she was before and yes, she is fighting depression! But she is doing everything she can in order to deal with his loss and that’s admirable and needs to be acknowledged.
I know a lot of readers might have wanted the book to go in another direction and truth be told I wanted to see a happy Louisa too, but that’s not how things work, that’s not how mourning works. That would have been unrealistic and it would have devalued the love Lou felt for Will. So, is this book an intermediate phase? Yes, it is! But it is necessary! Lou has to grieve in order to be able to move on and to heal and she ultimately does! Boy, how she does!
It might have been sad to read her journey, it might have been depressing but it was realistic and wholesome and I can’t thank Jojo Moyes enough for this kind of representation! Because that’s what happens when you lose the person you love! You try to get back on your feet, you try to live on, you fight to be able to enjoy your life! You learn how to cope with your loss, to turn it into something positive! There are days you take one step forward and two steps back, but you learn to be thankful for the fact that you’re still alive! That life is still ahead of you! That the time you spent with your loved one – no matter how long or short lived it might have been – was precious and a gift! And eventually… well eventually you accept your loss and you move on. You finally live the life you know your loved one wanted you to live all along.
I could write about Lou’s love interest or the rather unexpected twist that happens right at the beginning of the story. I could write about Lou’s funny family and all their antics, but I think I’ll just leave it at that.
For me “After You” is a book about grief and healing. About learning how to live with your scars and about accepting them as a part of you. The loss of a loved one might push you into the abyss but it’s up to you if you fight and crawl out of them or stay there and get lost. It’s a fight no one can help you with, a fight you have to battle on your own. But let me tell you this, it’s a battle that’s always worth it. 😉
So thank you Jojo Moyes, for tackling such a sensitive and serious topic with genuine humour and tentative prudence. Thank you for giving us hope. I can only speak for myself here, but my teenage me really would have needed and appreciated your book! It might be too late for me, but I’m sure many other people will find comfort in your words!
And sometimes, well sometimes that’s already enough. =)