Set in a small town in England, the book tells the story of Lou Clark, a woman in her twenties who loses her job and ends up working as a personal aid to Will Traynor, a former golden boy who is now confined to a wheelchair as a result of being struck by a motorcycle two years before. Will is, perhaps understandably, not the easiest bloke to get along with, but Lou comforts herself with the fact that the job pays extremely well (her down on their luck family really need the money she brings in) and that it's only for six months.
This book could have easily fallen into a familiar pattern at this point: crusty rich man falls for plucky poor girl and they live happily ever after despite his physical limitations. But though there is an element of that in the book, it's the reason that the contact is only for six months that elevates this book to something more than mundane and packs the real emotional punch that will have you doing what I call the "ugly cry," particularly if you are reading this book in public.
Spoiler alert: the reason for the six month contract is that Will plans on killing himself at the end of it. He's made up his mind, but he's told his parents he'll give it six more months. When Lou finds this out she decides to make it her mission to change his mind by showing him that life is worth living, even confined, and this is where the heart of the story lies.
One of the things original aspects of the book was the portrayal of Lou. We've seen plenty of Will Traynor's in commercial fiction -- rich, entitled, outwardly awful, but inwardly kind when the right woman is around. But Lou is of a different sort. Her family's grinding poverty, her lack of education or interest in a career and her perpetual cheerfulness in the face of these things. This is life, she seems to say, let's make the most of it.
So I very much enjoyed this book, even though it made me cry in public.
Which bring us to week 34, where we're reading our first non-fiction piece (which is being fictionalized on Netflix) Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.
One last note: Since we're pretty deep into the project, I've started a poll on Goodreads page asking people to pick their favorite read. The top 5 results so far?:
1. The Fault in Our Stars by Jon Green with 15.6 percent of the vote;
2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini with 11.7 percent of the vote;
3. The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn tied with 10.4 percent of the vote; and
4. Divergent by Veronica Roth with 7.8 percent of the vote.
With the exception of The Banks of Certain Rivers, which was a wildcard choice of a self-published debut, the top five are all blockbusters. Which goes to show that while there is quality on the bestseller list, it's not the only place to find it.
Disagree? Come vote for your favorite.