It has taken me a few days to get to this point because I was reeling and crying and just so overwhelmed by the characters in this book.
Lou was cute and managed, with Will’s help, to grow out of her fears. Will, with Lou’s help, saw the world in a different light. That is the ‘changed their lives forever’ part. For those of you are complaining because Will’s life wasn’t ‘forever’, you have to understand that for him it was because he hadn’t loved until then.
There are so many things I want to say about this book, many of them cliché, but I shall address the most obvious points as I saw them. Please note: the only thing I will say regarding the area of giving/taking/accepting and supporting ‘life choices’ is that, to me, it is obvious. Your body=your right.
When Lou was younger, something horrific happened and it bound her to her village in a way nothing else could. To compound this, her family’s circumstances also bound her to the village; her boyfriend and his selfish self-absorbed immersion into the world of triathlon training, constrained her even more. Despite these invisible ties, Lou is her own quirky, vibrant, open person and she is about to burst (stumble) upon Will’s world in a shower of wonder.
Unfortunately, Will is bound in his own way, and not just by the accident that keeps him in a wheelchair. His past lifestyle was somewhat selfish and shallow. It was one of high finance, luxury and power, and it blinkered him to the more subtle pleasures of life, aided greatly by the jaded, separate, lifestyles of his parents – a couple who never, ever showed or demonstrated their feelings, constrained within their self-made prisons of propriety. His mother is a successful lawyer, very proper and elegant and refined, but doesn’t know how to relate to people on a personal level, not even her own son, whom she cannot look in the eye. His father checked out of his marriage and has a love interest that consumes him to the point where he looks upon Will’s accident as a stumbling block to the future he envisioned for himself – not that he doesn’t love and empathise with Will’s plight, but it is secondary to his own. His sister is as selfish as Will ever was and, while she loves her brother, it is not with the sort of affection you see in Lou’s family (I feel as though Jojo is holding up a mirror to Will’s past with his sister).
Can you see that Lou and Will’s differences goes far beyond their personalities? She with all the love and none of the wealth or freedom. He with all the wealth but none of the love… and no longer any freedom.
Lou’s down-to-earth presence slowly unveils a different world for Will and he begins to see that his previous lifestyle was pretty shallow; the only real things that gave him joy were using his brains, making new discoveries and thrilling adventure sports, even his bike.
In the book, when Lou asks, ‘did you never love anything that much’, and he answers, ‘yes,’ I like to think he is referring to everything except Alicia. He loved being alive: living and laughing and sex and running and sports and pitting his brains against his colleagues. All that, but not necessarily Alicia, who is merely a prop.
Alicia: I think she was used to highlight his ‘lack’. He pushed her away, but in actuality she didn’t fight it and when she gets engaged to his friend, I think Will sees it as confirmation of his utter worthlessness, as well as the fact that he will never have that (marriage, children), never ‘move on’. At the wedding, he also sees that, with him, Lou will never have that either.
Will and Lou do fall in love, but Will never actually tells her, because he believes it to be one more thing that will hold her back. Hearing Will say, ‘I love you’, especially for Lou who is so emotionally invested, would have made Lou feel a form of obligation and it would make it harder for her to move on ‘after’. That is also, in part, why he did not want to have sex with her. The other part is that he didn’t want her to have just a tiny ‘make do’ piece of him, he wanted to give her everything or nothing at all. It killed him that he couldn’t ‘love’ her properly. Again, having sex would have meant Louisa investing too much of herself and he didn’t want that for her. It is another one of his unselfish acts, like the time when they go to the wedding and he wants her to have fun, entailing drinking too much to go home, even though it meant she wouldn’t be able to change his dressings and jeopardise his health. He does things he would have never have done for anyone else. It is these little things that prove he loves her.
The question everyone keeps asking: Why didn’t he delay Dignitas? Simple: Hope. If he’d delayed it to give him and Lou time, then we go back to the scenario I have already explained above and it would have given her leave to hope that he might delay it a little more, then a little more… pushing back the inevitable, during which time she falls deeper and deeper in love with him and is tied to him, not living, not growing, which he wants for her. He doesn’t want to be something else that binds her to the village, like her family and her fear and her ex-boyfriend. He wants her to ‘live’, to spread her wings and live life to the full and see the world. She says, on the beach, ‘she isn’t enough for him’, but what she can’t seem to grasp is that she is everything and he refuses to let her tie herself to him when she could have so much more. Refuses to let her fall more in love with him, knowing that her heartache will be all the greater when the end comes – he is being selfless in refusing to let more time go by. I like to think he would have loved to have had more time with her, but he wants her happiness above his own.
Dignitas: Will explained his reasons far better than I could here, but for Will, who was so vitally alive, to be imprisoned (he mentions claustrophobia a couple of times with Lou in mind, but I saw it as him projecting), living with near constant pain and indignity, it was unbearable. This in no way devalues the life he has/could have, it is a personal choice based on what he feels he can live with.
Will had seen and experienced so much in the world, but never understood or felt true love until Lou. Lou understood love – the love of family and friends and simple living and was content in herself, but Will opened her eyes to the wider world.
They were both missing something and, like two parts of a jigsaw puzzle, fulfilled that missing element for each other.
The heartbreaking thing is that, had Will not had the accident and been so completely dependent, he and Lou would never have met, got together and experienced such a deep abiding affection for each other; they would have remained tied into their lifestyles – Lou in her pretty village with a selfish boyfriend, struggling to keep her family above water; Will in the world of luxury, never happy with anyone and always looking for the next thrill to replace what was missing. But, contrarily, his condition meant their time together was destined to be short.
Finally, her mother at the end of the book: I was surprised at her stance because she has accepted so much else with barely a shrug – her daughter’s teen pregnancy; next door’s infidelity; redundancy; her father’s living with them – accepted and didn’t comment on other people’s choices (insisted Lou never mention her sister’s choice), and maybe this was the last straw. But, this was Lou allowing Will to make his own choice, she was merely going there to be with him while he exercised free will (huh!).
This book! Oh, this book!
Pass the tissues, please.