‘Me Before You’: more than a love story

The English writer Jojo Moyes scored a huge success in the UK last year with her unconventional romantic novel “Me Before You” (Pamela Dornan Books/Viking).

The book has just been published in this country and it will be interesting to see if this story of love without sex will take off here in the wake of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon.

“Me Before You” labors under the burden of a plot that, when reduced to a brief synopsis, sounds like just about the last thing you would want to read.

Frankly, I might not have read the novel if I hadn’t lined up an interview with the author in advance of her appearance in Mystic on Monday (she’s launching her U.S. book tour there).

There is no getting around the fact that “Me Before You” is about the relationship of a wealthy paraplegic young man and the middle class young woman who takes a job as one of his caretakers. We know from the start that Will Traynor’s condition won’t change and, worse yet (from a romance novel standpoint), he is determined to take his own life at a Swiss clinic in six months’ time.

But what makes the book so compelling and ultimately uplifting is that the real protagonist is Louisa Clark, a small-town minimum wage earner who finds new meaning in her life through the job and her eventual friendship/love relationship with Will.

To boil the intricate plot down to one line of Hollywoodspeak, it’s “Educating Rita” meets “Whose Life Is It, Anyway?”

Moyes doesn’t sugar-coat Will’s condition and she allows the character to make a strong argument for his decision not to live the new life he has been given after being hit by a car in London.

“Quality of life” is at the core of “Me Before You” — Will’s after the accident and Louisa’s before her patient begins to goad her to live a less “ordinary” life.

The book offers the pleasure of a powerful love story without the fake sentimentality that is served up in so many movies and so much popular literature.

Joe Meyers