SPOILER ALERT: This post may contain a few spoilers about the Jojo Moyes bestseller, Me Before You, because it would be quite hard to write about the sequel After You without talking about about its prequel.
This past Saturday I spent a lovely afternoon curled up with the new Jojo Moyes book, After You. It was a delightful read, if a bit of a tearjerker, completely worth staying up late that night to finish. This book is the sequel to her previous novel, Me Before You (2012) which was also a heartbreaking sob-fest. While this book does stand alone if you were interested in reading it without completing the first novel, the two really are a set and I strongly recommend that you read them in order.
At the opening of After You we find Louisa Clark eighteen months after the heartbreaking loss of her beloved boyfriend Will. After traveling the world for a bit, Louisa has moved to London and is living a meager existence in a dingy flat, working a dead-end job at an airport bar, drinking her nights away. She is at a complete loss for how to put her life back together. Distanced from her family and Will’s, she has cut herself off from life and is making no effort to move forward. Soon a series of shocks and surprises mean the Louisa can no longer hide behind the veil of her grief. She is forced to take control of her life, even if it means that she makes a bad choices and mistakes along the way.
Told in first person by Louisa, the story almost feels like Louisa’s diary as it catalogs the ups and downs of her life as she tries to get a handle on her grief and depression. What emerges is an honest portrayal of how one woman deals with “one step forward two steps back” aspect of loss. Readers get a front row seat to Louisa’s struggles, her confusion and constant insecurity about whether she doing anything right. More importantly, we get to see Louisa’s small triumphs as she slowly moves out from under her sadness. And it in these moments, when Louisa’s life starts to look upward, that the novel really outshines it’s predecessor. In the first book, Louisa has such a hard time of things and suffers so much — humiliation, mental distress, familial stress and (of course) guilt and grief — how wonderful to finally see Louisa vindicated! She is starting to have good things come her way and is so deserving of them.
The book is lovely and very touching. Although the subject matter is dark, there are many moments of levity and laughter as well. In its lighter moments, Louisa’s story faintly echoes Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary since readers get to witness not just the darker moments of her journey but also get to laugh at her crappy boss, her bad fashion choices, and her rag-tag group of friends and loved ones.
I love all of Jojo Moyes books. Even when the topics she writes about are serious, her books still manage to be touching, as well as fresh, quirky and fun. While there are definitely tears to be shed while reading any of her work, Moyes always leaves us with a hopeful ending. Her characters may not have found love and happiness at the end of every book, but it seems likely they will find both soon. (Among my favorites of hers are: One Plus One, Ship of Brides, and The Girl You Left Behind.)