by Jojo Moyes
In this follow-up to Moyes’s Me Before You, we catch up with Louisa Clark, who had fallen in love with Will Traynor, a quadriplegic whom she was hired to care for. Will has been dead for eighteen months now, having ended his life at a Swiss clinic for assisted suicide. Upon his death, Will left Lou a chunk of money, instructing her to go make something of her life.
“You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”
She has spent that money traveling, living in Paris for a while (a place that she had dearly wanted to visit with Will), and ultimately returning to England and buying a modest flat. Louisa is floundering. Will’s gift to her has not made her feel like she is able to make a fresh start; rather, she is working a dead-end job in an airport bar, and is still mired in grief over Will.
When Louisa is involved in a terrible accident herself that nearly takes her life, she s forced to confront her own mental state. During her convalescence, she joins a “moving on circle,” a support group for people grieving the loss of a loved one. Through this group, a new love interest enters her life (actually, her accident was her first encounter with him) – and this is pretty predictable. I mean, of course the sequel to Me Before You was going to see Louisa falling in love again, right? Predictable as it may be, it’s still poignant and relatable – especially to anyone who has loved and lost and found that life does go on (which I have). In any case, Moyes handles this new relationship pretty expertly, with plenty of realistic fumbling, holding back, and fear of getting involved with anyone new – in other words, messiness.
To complicate matters, a strange teenage girls shows up on Lou’s doorstep one evening, out of the blue. The girl turns out to be Will’s daughter – a daughter he never knew he had before he died. Lilly is in trouble, too, and of course Louisa takes her under her wing, at great personal cost, but ultimately Lilly’s existence is perhaps the greatest gift from Will.
While After You doesn’t pack the emotional punch of Me Before You, it’s tender and funny, and a perfect sequel. I’ve grown quite fond of Louisa Clark, and would eagerly read yet another follow-up novel if Moyes is inclined to write one.