Me Before You

Who knew that the innocuous-looking romance novel I picked up on a whim from a community bookshelf which was full of my favourite genre (crime fiction) would be a book that I can honestly say has changed my life?

I don’t even know what drew me to it. I even checked Goodreads and saw a scathing review. Yet I took it home anyway. Mind you, I live under a rock, so I hadn’t heard anything about the movie.

I most definitely do not go for romance novels as my first choice – I don’t even remember ever reading one. But the moment I started reading this book, I was hooked.

I stayed up till 3 am without even realising because I was so engrossed in it. I had to muster up the willpower to leave the next chapter for another day and get some sleep.

The writing makes the main characters so lovable and made me crack up a lot. But it also raised some deep questions, like whether life as a quadriplegic was worth living anymore… and the tears started to flow.

I loved that I got a glimpse into what life is like for people who suffer in the shadows of their condition; there is no way I could say that I ‘understand’ how they feel, but at least now I could be more understanding.

Their limitations bring up a whole host of issues and restrictions that you’d never think about if you were ‘able-bodied’, and it reminded me to be grateful for my fully functioning body, however imperfect it might be.

And I learned a few life lessons…

Life Lesson 1: Life is short.

We all know that, but sometimes we really need to be reminded of it. We need to stop getting caught up in the menial and the petty and the ‘busy’ and try to just live.

Don’t keep holding yourself back. Stop telling yourself “I’m not that kind of person” and pre-judging things before you’ve even tried it.

If you don’t like it, at least you know that you tried and can confirm that it is something to avoid in the future. If you do like it, it opens your world up to so many new opportunities. Most of all, don’t let a fear of what other people would think ever hold you back. It’s your life!

Picking this book up was really a fluke. I would never go out of my way to look for a book like this when finding something new to read. Perhaps I was drawn to it because it’s so different from the crime fiction that I normally read. Amazing things can happen when you just keep your mind open.

Life Lesson 2: Money can’t buy happiness.

The comparison can’t be starker. An extremely wealthy young man is distanced from his parents, parents’ relationship isn’t going well and mother has a super cold and unpleasant persona (seems to have developed a poker face from being a magistrate).

Also, his wealthy ex-girlfriend has gone off to marry his wealthy ex-best friend. He is bloody miserable because he can’t do much with all the money he’s earned.

A poor village girl whose family has to live off benefits and depend on her as the sole breadwinner has led a simple life (worked at a cafe for 7 years) and loved it.

Despite the financial troubles at home, her family is loving and try to support each other as much as possible. Sure, this is a work of fiction, but how closely does it resemble real life?

Life Lesson 3: Helping others makes people happy.

Both the main characters find the greatest joy in doing things to help the other. In addition, they unknowingly end up benefiting from beautiful experiences themselves. What goes around comes around.

Life Lesson 4: At our core, we’re all pretty similar.

Once you strip away all the external stuff that defines us, you realise that everyone is human.

A poor village girl is worried that people will think that she doesn’t belong if she tries to do things that are somewhat beyond her ‘class’. A wealthy young man confined to a wheelchair points out that he will never feel like he belongs because he is physically different.

We all have fears and aspirations. And yet each person can bring something different into the life of the other. Go out and meet people who are different from you. Watch the magic unfold as they change your perspective on life.

Those few printed pages of a book transported me into a different world, raised some deep and meaningful questions, and gave me a new perspective on life. And I have never come across a book that made me so invested in the characters that I would continue crying long after I’d finished.

I would recommend just about anyone to read it. Even if you’re thinking, “it’s not my kind of thing”. The late nights, puffy eyes and the tissues piling up will be worth it, I promise.

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