Review: After You (2016) by Jojo Moyes

jo-jo-moyes-picLouisa Clark has lots of questions. Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places. 

Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home. Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago. And will she ever get over the love of her life. What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.

Then, one night, it does. But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions?

 

I didn’t read Me Before You, or see the film. I know, I know …

So, I had no expectations as to what After You should deliver. All I knew was that Will had been in a wheelchair and died and that it was a tearjerker of a story. And that much I had gleaned from trailers and posters for the film.

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed After You. I thought Louisa’s aimlessness was pretty accurate in terms of how some people’s lives stall after a bereavement. You can’t go back, you have no vision of the future, and it takes everything you’ve got to struggle out of bed to face today. And I thought Moyes portrayed that pretty well.

I also enjoyed Louisa’s family – how they treat her with kid gloves, how their lives changed after Will’s death, how they evolve as they too become better with dealing with the fallout of Will’s death and its impact on Louisa.

There’s her sister, whose life choices narrowed after her son was born; her mother, who’s getting ‘notions’ of gender equality; her father, who’s solid but still wants his dinner on the table, preferably prepared by his wife; and her grandfather who doesn’t say a whole lot.

Then there’s Will’s parents … also struggling to deal with Will’s death and the ramifications of their own choices since then.

What’s interesting in this novel is how Moyes shows how death causes ripples – Louisa’s bereavement support group is an often hilarious and poignant illustration of the void left behind by death. There’s the absence of a friend, partner, lover, mother, carer – someone to fight with, make up with, travel with …

Will’s death and the manner of it has ramifications for everyone, with unintended consequences popping up across the board.

Such as, how do you move on to a new relationship when you’re still talking to the dead guy in your head …

And how do you deal with the strange girl who turns up on your doorstep, challenging you to live again, to care again …

I liked it. It seems to have disappointed fans of Me Before You, but I, for one, am glad I read it.

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