I’m not going to bother with the SPOILER ALERT or DISCLAIMER tags because, face it, if you don’t want to read this, why’d you click the link?
I don’t generally jump into these arguments, but yesterday I read something that made me cringe. And I’d had enough.
I’m an author. I have been writing fiction for over 20 years. I know what it’s like to agonize over a story. To worry whether your words will have the impact you meant them to. Or whether anyone will read them at all. It’s not an easy task, this writing thing. Most of the time it’s a slog, but every once in a while we hit it, and it all makes sense. And so we carry on.
I cannot speak for Jojo Moyes, but I can say that most of the writers I know do not set out to present their readers with some hidden agenda carefully woven through the pages of the novels we write. No. We leave that to the non-fiction writers.
I read Me Before You not really knowing what to expect. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find myself in floods of tears. At best, I hoped for an entertaining read. Well, that’s what I got. As well as an addiction to every Jojo Moyes novel ever written. Simply put, she’s a brilliant author. No, not like Hemingway or Austen, but there’s something about the way she weaves her words, the wit, the sarcasm (probably what hooked me to be honest), and the down to earth characters she creates, all leave me wanting to read her next novel. Immediately. I don’t know Ms. Moyes and she doesn’t know me. She did leave a comment on my FB page once, and I squealed.
So what’s all the fuss with this book that’s now been made into a movie? That’s what I’d like to try to understand. Because from where I’m sitting, it would appear that once again a certain faction of our faith community have built a bandwagon, grabbed their pitchforks and flaming torches and are setting out to storm the castle. And this time the Beast is called Assisted Suicide. Which happens to be the topic of Me Before You.
Honestly? I didn’t even know assisted suicide was a thing before I read this book. I was actually rather shocked and surprised to learn that there are places one can go to quietly end one’s own life. By choice. And I wrestled with that. To some extent I still do.
If we can gather around the Honesty Circle a moment, I’ll tell you why.
I watched my mother die. She was in the end stages of her life. Everything had shut down. There was no magic pill. Nothing that would make her jump out of that bed and be herself again. I believe her spirit was gone long before her body. Her body took about a week to give up. And we were there every day. Just waiting. Watching. And it was horrendous.
Do I wish we’d been given an easy option? Sometimes. Do I think she would have wanted that option? Sometimes. For me, it’s a gray area. Like many hot-button topics that we’re told as Christians, we must throw down the gauntlet over. There are issues that, frankly, for many believers, are simply black and white. They’ve been taught that there is right and there is wrong, and if you’re trying to find a middle ground, well, you’ll be hard pressed. I’m not one of those black and white only believers. Sometimes I prefer gray. Perhaps I think too much.
In any event, my point, is that we have taken a work of fiction and turned it into something with fangs and claws, something to be avoided at all costs. Something to be boycotted. I was rather stunned yesterday when I saw a post on Facebook urging people to boycott the movie. I read the article a couple of times. And I get it. Honest, I do.
But people . . . must we suck the life out of every little thing meant to bring a bit of pleasure, just because we don’t like what it had to say?
This is a work of fiction.
I can’t see the character of WIll making any other choice. Had he suddenly had a come to Jesus moment and realized the error of his ways, married Louisa and lived happily ever after, well, we’d have a nice little feel good novel on our hands. (Many bookstores carry these. You’ll have no trouble finding one). And dang it, yes, I love me a happy ending too. But that isn’t what happened.
The author ended the book the way she felt it should end. That’s her right. It’s her story. Like it or not, the fact that we’re even talking about it proves she has done her job. But do I think she had some hidden agenda to get us all up in arms for one side or the other on this issue? No. I think she just wanted to write a good story.
Don’t we all.
Sometimes life just sucks. Sometimes there are no happy endings. People live in nightmare situations. Every. Day. And a lot of those people don’t have faith. They have never experienced grace. Mercy. Unconditional love. And so they make choices. Selfishly, perhaps, but who are we to judge?
While we rage in our pulpits, point fingers and shake our heads in disgust, someone is slipping out the door. Someone who might have needed just a little compassion. Someone who might have been in desperate need of hope.
While we’re boycotting, signing petitions and protesting in the name of Jesus, real life is sucking people under. We’re watching them drown. We’ve forgotten what we’re supposed to be about. And everything from politics to a work of fiction must be made into a debate.
Life is too short for this.
Disagree if you must, but do it in love. Take a stand if you feel the need, but leave the hate at home. Embrace. Don’t push. And for the love . . . have the grace to understand that not everyone will accept your message. That’s their right.
Rather than taking something controversial and slapping the sticker of evil all over it, why not use it as a conversation starter? We can still have honest, heartfelt discussions around a table, can’t we? We can at least admit that what we’ve read has made us feel. It has made us think and wrestle with the hard things we may not have otherwise given a second thought to. And that is every author’s hope, I think. To make an impact. To make your readers think and feel and contemplate.
Read the book. See the movie. Or don’t.
But before you go on a rant about this, do measure your words and thoughts carefully, with love.
And then you will have made the bigger point.