It Has All Happened BEFORE

If you have seen the movie version of Me Before You, you should still read the book. If you have not seen the movie, read the book.

Me Before You (2012) by JoJo Moyes is not strictly a romance novel regardless of the title.  It does have some touching moments one could label romantic, but this a story that involves families, quality of life issues and choices made.  With that said, this novel manages to present much laughter and joy throughout the entire book.

26-year-old Louisa (Lou) Clark, who still lives at home, has just lost her much-needed job.  Her family depends on her income to make ends meet.   She was very happy and felt safe at the café where she worked.  After trying out several positions for a new job she is sent on an interview for a position as a caretaker for one Mr. Will Traynor.

Will is 35 years old and a quadriplegic.  His mother, Camilla, interviews Louisa and seems to think Lou will be suitable for the job even though she has no training as a caretaker.  It is Louisa’s personality that enabled her to be hired.  The pay for the position is much higher that what she expected.

Quirky is a word many would use to describe Louisa.  Her clothing tastes run to the unique.  Rarely does she think to filter her thoughts before speaking.  Pretty much the complete opposite of Will.

Prior to Will being run down by a motorcycle in a rainstorm, he had been described as a man about town.  He comes from a very wealthy family, made major business decisions, traveled the world, and caught the eye of many women.  Once he was full of life, now he is living just to die.

Louisa learns the real reason Mrs. Traynor hired her and decides to quit.  Since her family now needs her income more than ever, Louisa decides to remain as caretaker.  After talking to her sister Treena, Lou comes up with a plan to make Will’s life worth living.  She begins planning ways to move Will, outside his usual confines.  Lou receives the go ahead from Will’s parents and enlists the help of Nathan, Will’s primary caretaker.

In planning and trying to pull off these excursions, Louisa begins to grown and change.  The trip to the horse races looked great on paper.  In reality it was pretty much a disaster.  Louisa did not give up.  Her journey to help Will leads her to new adventures.  Little things such as getting a library card, watching a movie with subtitles, and attending a symphony were all part of that journey.

All the characters in Me Before You are likeable, once you get to know them.  They are far from perfect.  But, aren’t we all just a bit flawed?  I am truly glad I read this book before seeing the movie version.  The storyline and the characters have stayed with me.  You may even want to read Me After You to learn about Louisa’s life.  She is even better in the pages of the book than the delightful character shown on screen.

In Before We Were Yours (2017) by Lisa Wingate the reader is going to meet some very likeable characters along with some that could easily be described as evil.  Do not let the bad guys keep you from reading this novel based on actual events that made headlines in 1950.

Before We Were Yours is presented in a narrative form that set in 1939 and Present Day.  Once you catch the rhythm of the writing the novel flows smoothly between the two times.

1939 – Memphis TN – One morning they woke up as Rill, Camellia, Fern, Lark, and Gabion Foss.  And in a blink of an eye they were May, Iris, Bonnie, Beth, and Robby Weathers.  Ranging in age 2 – 12, these five children had their lives changed forever.

Present Day – Aiken SC – 30-year-old Avery Stafford is back in South Carolina from Baltimore to re-establish her residency.  Avery, an attorney and granddaughter of Senator Wells Stafford, is being groomed to one day take his place in the Senate.  His age and his health issues are beginning to take a toll.

During a political meet and greet at a nursing home, Avery is surprised when one of the elderly residents grabs her arm, looks up at her and whispers, “Fern?”  It wasn’t until later that Avery learns May Crandall was found with the bracelet Avery had been wearing that morning.  That bracelet with tiny dragonflies had belonged to Avery’s grandmother.

1939 – The Foss family, all seven of them, live on and sometimes travel the Mississippi River.  Their story begins as their boat named Arcadia is tied up near Memphis across from Mud Island.  The kids mother, Queenie, is in labor with twins and all is not going smoothly.  The midwife tells Briny, their father, he has to get Queenie to a doctor or the babies and mama are not going to make it.  A storm is moving in and the Mississippi is a wide river for a tiny skiff to make that journey.

Zede and Silas, friends of Briny, come to their aid.  Rill being the oldest is left in charge of the kids.  They all settle in for the night expecting Queenie and Briny to return in the morning with the twins.  The next day all their lives are turned upside down.

Present Day – Avery cannot get May Crandall’s blue eyes out of her mind.  She decides to return to the nursing home to get the bracelet herself instead of a staff member.  The director feels May is better off if Avery does not visit her.  On Avery’s way out, she steps into May’s room.

While there she notices a Depression era photograph of a young couple.  The woman in the photo reminds Avery of her grandmother.  Avery tries to get a picture of it with her camera and awakens May.  They end up having a conversation that leads Avery to a visit with her grandmother.

From this point on you will want to keep turning the pages to find out if and how Avery and May are connected.  I will warn you that the 1939 chapters are difficult to read at points.  The children were abused, neglected, fed little while at the orphanage.  It is a very sad.

Before We Were Yours is based on actual events that took place at the Tennessee Children’s Home in Memphis.  It was run by Georgia Tann who made boatloads of money stealing children and offering them for sale to those who could afford her price.  All under the guise of helping orphans.  It is an unbelievable just how she was able to accomplish this and was supported by so many, especially those who turned a blind eye. Me Before You also has it roots in real life situations according to the author notes at the end of the novel. You will want to read those notes.


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