Can we talk a bit about Louisa?
Jojo Moyes recently released Still Me, the third—and likely final—title that follows Louisa Clark, the woman we first met in Me Before You, the author’s phenomenally successful breakout novel that introduced us to Louisa when she became the caregiver to quadriplegic Will.
Will dies. (I expect most of you reading this know how that happens, and how Luisa is affected by it.) Louisa dealing with her grief, guilt and anger while figuring out how to move on is the dominating plot arc of After You, the second book. (I wrote about this for NPR, which you can read here.)
By the end of After You, Louisa has met and fallen in love with Sam, a paramedic, but has also decided to go to New York, fulfilling a promise she made to herself and to Will.
In Still Me, we meet up with Louisa as she’s heading to Manhattan to take a position as the assistant to Agnes, the Polish second wife of Leonard Gopnik, a business scion. Louisa loves her new life, but she misses Sam and worries about their relationship, especially when his new professional partner is a beauty making subtle moves on Sam. Meanwhile a charming businessman with a striking resemblance to Will expresses interest in Louisa, which she deflects.
The Gopnik’s family life is tense. His daughter is acidic and snide toward Agnes, and Leonard doesn’t stand up for her. Agnes claims Louisa as friend but places her in awkward positions when she’s clearly keeping secrets from her husband.
As usual, there are layers of interesting secondary characters, and when a surprising twist to Louisa’s Manhattan adventure leaves her vulnerable, it isn’t the Gopnik’s who come to her rescue. It’s the people around her she’s taken the time to get to know. Louisa has always been quirky but her time with Will was a reminder that life was short. That she had to embrace her true self, that she was tasked with creating a life worth living.
It’s hard to do when things seems to be turning against you, but isn’t that when you need to fight for it the most?
One of Louisa’s great loves is vintage fashion, a passion she shares with the cantankerous neighbor across the hall as well as the owners of a second hand clothes shop that stays alive by catering to people seeking one-of-a-kind pieces. They’re connections that may offer temporary sanctuary, but also seeds of re-invention.
Louisa’s brilliance is her ability to connect with people, to take an interest and engage. It has, again and again, saved her. Her family alternately drives her nuts and grounds her, but when things get tough, she knows they’ll always be there for her. That in itself has taught her how important it is to be there for others.
And so she is.
The unexpected benefit in being there for others, she discovers, is that sometimes you find yourself with surprising allies when you need them.
As is occasionally the case with romantic women’s fiction I loved, the Kirkus reviewer didn’t. (You can read the Still Me review here.) Louisa has lost her charm for them, but not for me.
I truly enjoyed this book and felt that Louisa’s choices were completely authentic, with her unique combination of courageous yet uncertain, unconventional but respectful, quietly fierce yet always, always kind.
I love Jojo Moyes—everything I’ve read from her is a joy—and I was reminded in this book how much I appreciate Louisa. We may not see her again, but it’s been a delight to watch her, again and again, remember how to shine.