After You - Jojo Moyes

Kindle edition (353pages) Read between 19 July - 23 July 2016

"You're going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don't settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will"

Louisa Clark is back! 

You're not quite sure who that is?  The crazy girl with the massive smile and quirky dress sense who went to a concert with a man in a red dress? (She was wearing the red dress) Yes! That one. The girl who helped the utterly gorgeous Will Traynor do that thing in the highly acclaimed novel by Jojo Moyes, Me Before You

18 months after we last saw Lou clutching Will's letter to her heart and straddling along the streets of Paris in her bumblebee tights, we meet her again in the much anticipated sequel, After You.

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Louisa Clark (she doesn't go by 'Lou' that much anymore) is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him and she finds it difficult to hold dear to the promise that she will live her life to the fullest. In fact, she might be even more confused than when she met Will 2 years ago. 

How did she end up working in an airport bar watching over people go on the journeys Will so wished she would undertake herself?
Why doesn't the flat she's owned for a year feel like home?
Why does she dress in cheap jeans and un-imaginative t-shirts?

When a "this-will-only-happen-to-Lou" accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can't help but feel she's right back where she started. While her body heals, Lou knows that something needs to change and she needs to be kicked back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On Support group.

There was a peculiar scent to grief. It smelt of damp,imperfectly ventilated church halls and poor-quality teabag. It smelt of meals for one and stale cigarettes smoked hunched against the cold. It smelt of spritzed hair and armpits, little practical victories against a morass of despair.
Here they share brutally honest feelings, insights, laughter, frustrations and terrible cookies. 

When a figure from Will's past appears and hijacks all her plans, her future is unexpectedly propelled on a different path.

And then there's Ambulance Sam. The paramedic with the strong and capable hands and the soft eyes. Will this larger than the average bloke on the street bloke help Lou to re-connect with her own larger than life personality and endless optimism that everything can be solved with a nice cup of tea? 

After You might not be have you break out in emotional angst like Me Before You, but it is strong novel in its own way. In Me Before You we deal with ordinary characters forced into not so ordinary circumstances. That made the whole story extraordinary.

 In After You we deal with most of those characters again, but now they just long to be ordinary. In order to live, you first have to survive. You first have to adapt to ordinary life before you can excel. 

Grief is like something you learn to accommodate. Like adapting around a hole. It's like you become a doughnut instead of a bun. 
Written in Jojo Moyes distinctive "I-so-know-people" style, After You is a novel that I will highly recommend to anyone who roots for Lou and her crazy family and not expect just another version of Me Before You. 


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