Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
I’m 99% sure I picked up this book based entirely on the blurb and really had no idea that I was getting into a serious story, rather than a romance. Lou, short for Louisa, is hired to be the companion/caretaker of a wealthy quadriplegic man, Will. Will, who used to be a big-shot financial partner, globetrotter, and thrill-seeker, is depressed and sullen and angry to be stuck in a wheelchair, confined to 24-hour care for the rest of his life. He wants a big life and now that is out of his reach forever. Lou, in contrast, lives a small life, limited by her socioeconomic standing, her education, and her feelings of unworthiness and incapability. She is from a working class family and sees nothing more for herself beyond working in a cafe or a factory, dating the same boy she has for the last six years, and living at home with her family.
Getting to know one another is a life-changing experience for both Lou and Will. Lou gains some confidence in herself through her mission to cheer Will up and starts to see possibilities for herself due to Will’s influence. Will finds something worth waking up for in the mornings. Ultimately, however, I wouldn’t call this much of a romance. Really, it more a coming of age story for Lou.
Commentary about assisted suicide drives much of the book. I don’t want to go into it too much because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can’t say I had previously given much thought to the issues of life-long disability or assisted suicide. After reading this, however, I find myself really pondering what I would do if I were in Will’s shoes or Lou’s or Will’s parents. How do you make an impossible choice between a painful life and an unknown death? How do you live with the devastating choices of a loved one? I’m not sure I have an answer. Or that I want the experiences that could give me an answer.
I could not put this book down. I really liked Lou’s narration. I thought she was a very endearing character and was really rooting for her to make something of herself. Will was very prickly and sarcastic and I really have a thing for prickly characters, so I enjoyed seeing him banter with Lou and was happy when we got a glimpse of his softer side. There are a handful of chapters from alternate POVs and while I am not sure they were absolutely necessary, they seem to be used as a device for providing backstory and in a couple places acted as a sort of time-out for emotional turning points in the story. I am really tired of multiple POVs in every single book I read, but I think it was used appropriately (and sparsely) here, so I guess I can let it slide.
Ultimately, this is a powerful story about making the most out of life. It will tug at your heartstrings and make you think about death and hard choices. I think this one will stick with me for quite a while.