- What: Still Me
- Who: Jojo Moyes
- Pages: 388
- Genre: Contemporary fiction; chick lit
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flames
If you’ve been following Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series, by now you know the premise surrounds a brilliant and quirky young woman, Louisa, who is trying to maintain her spunky personality through love, loss, and unfathomable decisions. (PSA: If you haven’t read the series, I advise you start now.) Moyes’ threequel, Still Me, doesn’t wander far from this theme, but it does introduce a caveat with new complications. The book isn’t just about finding yourself or staying true to that person. It’s also about the unique challenges women face in this scenario. In the words of Ruth Dewitt Bukater, “Of course, it’s unfair. We’re women. Our choices are never easy.”
Still Me starts off right where it’s predecessor left us: with Louisa taking on a journey as a caretaker for the Manhattan elite. Although I love the Britishisms of the first two books, it’s fun to see Louisa bring those across the pond and how she starts to pick up a New York identity. Our heroine is still with her hunky paramedic who saved her life (and let’s not forget, vice versa), but their love is about to be tested by distance and the personal growth Louisa will experience.
One of the great things about Still Me is that we get to see more of her former colleague, Nathan, with all his brusqueness and dry humor. Oh how I love Nathan. The pals have been hired by the extremely rich Gopnik family of the Upper East Side; he works with the wealthy banker husband as a trainer of sorts, while Louisa cares for the much younger, foreign, and beautiful second Mrs. Gopnik, Agnes.
The relationship is still fairly new and not lacking for rumors, which is duly noted by the gossipy women of the charity circuit, of which Agnes has been forced to enter upon her marriage. Their petty views of Agnes as a good-for-nothin’ golddigger are the source of much anxiety and sadness for her, which brings us to Louisa. Her job is to company the Mrs. to appointments and more or less provide good company when she is surrounded by such poor associates.
Because Louisa speaks her mind yet also has an attentive ear, she and Agnes hit it off, showcased by Mrs. Gopnik making her employee somewhat of a confidante. She even frequently refers to Louisa as her friend, the only friend she has. This friendship is tested though when the secrets Agnes tells Louisa become too much of a burden, and the latter is backed into an impossible corner, leaving her to wonder if she can make New York, as well as her long-distance relationship, work.
While living in the Gopnik’s building, Louisa meets their seemingly crabapple neighbor, Margot De Witt. Because Louisa can bring out the best in everyone in any situation, the two form a bond — founded by a shared love for fashion — that takes us through the second half of the novel and instills in us the book’s most important lessons.
Throughout her time in New York, Louisa is constantly figuring out who she really is and if the people around her are influencing her character. Margot is like a guiding light (once you get past her rudeness). She calls out fake and judgmental people on their bull shit and forces Louisa to see her own strengths and to fight for herself. She does so by providing insight into her experiences and her own regrets, even recounting how she once had to choose between a traditional lifestyle as a mother and her career.
“Know first who you are and then adore yourself accordingly.” — Still Me
Margot’s story and insights are refreshing because they allow us to recognize that women, too, can be selfish, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it’s what a man would do. How many men do you know who are forced to choose between family and work or who are asked to make a few sacrifices to have both. When you’re a man, it’s not called being selfish; it’s just doing what you want.
“I thought about the fact that there seemed to be such a high cost to anything a woman chose to do with her life, unless she simply aimed low.” — Still Me
Slowly, through her interactions with Agnes and Margot, Louisa starts to realize the importance of fighting for who you are and for what you want to be regardless of your gender. This personal growth is only possible because Moyes gives us the same Louisa that we had in Me Before You and After You. Moyes keeps Louisa true to herself, and that can be quite the feat in a threepeat. Louisa is frenetic, independent, intriguing, original — both in physical appearance and frame of mind — and a joy to be around.
“I was wearing a fine-pleated gold skit, my fake fur gilet, and a beanie hat colored like a giant strawberry … On my feet were a pair of bright red patent brogues that I had bought from a sale in a children’s shoe shop, air-punching amid the harassed mothers and screeching toddlers when I realized they fitted.” — Still Me
This is why we, as readers, love her and why Moyes can write three novels from one person’s point of view without losing our interest. Had she changed Louisa’s behavior in any way, Still Me would have lost its edge and what makes Louisa special. Thank goodness we get what we’re looking for in the series’ latest.
Despite its consistency, humor, and life lessons, this book fell short in one big way. Although I thoroughly enjoy Louisa’s time with both Agnes and Margot, as well as the comparisons and contrasts between the two, the plot doesn’t fully flesh out Agnes’ story. It abruptly ends with only one chapter quickly wrapping it up toward the end of the book. I have so many questions about the Gopniks that I want answered, and there are some holes that need to be filled. If you’re going to drop a bombshell or two in the first half of the book, you have to resolve it at some point (unless we’re getting a spinoff of Agnes here).
Regardless of this weakness and a few character flaws (meet Josh, and then we’ll talk), Still Me deserves every spark of its four flames. It’s poignant and thought-provoking, which many critics say is impossible in chick lit though I beg to differ. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to a fourth telling of this fabulous character’s life, a character who reminds us to be ourselves — even if we’re women faced with the impossible. If we don’t, what else do we have?
“All this nonsense about women having it all. We never could, and we never shall. Women always have to make the difficult choices. But there is a great consolation in simply doing something you love.” — Still Me