Me Before You was my first Jojo Moyes books, but The Girl You Left Behind was the one that cemented her spot on my favorite authors list. I read both books within the same year, and I knew I'd stumbled upon someone special. Whether it's historical or contemporary (or both!), Jojo Moyes makes every story come alive. Her characters work their way into your heart - and they'll live forever in your mind.
Today, I'm sharing a post inspired by The Girl You Left Behind. I reviewed it two years ago and fell in love with it. I wrote, "Well-drawn characters, intriguing stories and moving endings are three things I'll never say no to, and Moyes' books have them in spades." And I still stand by that assessment! As I was thinking about how I wanted to celebrate this book, I decided to discuss the big question I pondered while reading it. Me Before You was a more emotional read for me, but The Girl You Left Behind was one that made me think.
Before I continue, here's the summary (in case you haven't read it):
France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard's portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer's dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything - her family, her reputation, and her life - to see her husband again.
Almost a century later, Sophie's portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting's true worth, and a battle behinds for who its legitimate owner is - putting Liv's belief in what is right to the ultimate test.
While I enjoyed both time periods, the historical story was my favorite. I fell in love with the small French village, with Sophie, and with her family. Since her husband is fighting at the front, she's responsible for keeping her family's small hotel running. When the town is occupied by the Germans, it sets off a chain of events that will change Sophie's life forever. She's forced to serve these hated enemies - and catches the eye of the Kommandant. In the end, Sophie may have to sacrifice everything to keep her loved ones safe.
It's a storyline that made me ask myself:
What would I sacrifice for someone I love?
I don't want to spoil anything that happens, so I won't go into how love and sacrifice intertwine in this story. But the two things have been on my mind a lot lately. Do you ever feel like you just can't get away from a certain theme? Sometimes I'll notice that everything I've read - and often watched, too - examines a similar idea or asks the same questions. And lately, I can't escape the question of love and sacrifice.
I re-read The Hunger Games recently and couldn't stop noticing it. Katniss volunteering for her sister - essentially sacrificing her life and future for the person she loves most in the world. Peeta willing to do anything to make sure that Katniss makes it out of the Hunger Games alive. Then, I read The Royal We. Inspired by Prince William and Kate Middleton, it depicts the harsh realities of life in the spotlight. I was forced to think about the sacrifice and pressure associated with being a country's sovereign. And I honestly wondered if I'd ever be able to give up things I take for granted, like weekends in my pajamas and running errands by myself, just to be with the person I loved. It's not offering up your life for someone else's, but it's still giving up a huge part of yourself.
Next, I read A Court of Thorns and Roses. While I won't say much about the plot, there are numerous examples I could give of characters who are forced to sacrifice something in order to protect someone important to them. I recently saw The Longest Ride in theaters, and it came up there, too. What if being with the person you love requires you to sacrifice certain dreams for your future? Could you do it? And, more importantly, could you make that sacrifice without later resenting the person you love?
So I laughed as I thought about The Girl You Left Behind because the idea for this post was sitting right in front of me. I've turned it over in my mind and thought about all the ways it has popped up in my reading recently. Because, you know, for every character that sacrifices something, there are also the one who don't. There are plenty of unselfish heroes and heroines... but there are just as many characters who put themselves first. If I were in a book, which person would I be? I can't say for sure, but I know who I want to be.
And the more I think about it, the more sure I am: love requires sacrifice. Love isn't just a feeling. It's also a choice, and it's made real in our actions. If I always put myself first, can I really say that I love someone? The moments I'm most aware of my husband's love for me are when he puts my own needs or desires ahead of his own. It might be something silly, like what movie we see in theaters, or it could be something serious, like a decision that impacts our future. I know he loves me all the time, but that's often when it's most obvious to me.
I want to be the kind of person who puts others ahead of themselves. I want to think more about other people and less about myself. But it's easier said than done! And sometimes I think that the smaller sacrifices can be harder to make. Sacrificing the need to always be right, to get your own way, to have the last word, can take more of a conscious effort than one huge moment of sacrifice. This may sound crazy, but it's almost harder for me to imagine the kind of sacrifice depicted in The Royal We (giving up your privacy) than to imagine taking my sister's place in something like The Hunger Games.
Because those big, climactic moments in a book are often fueled by emotion. When someone you love is in danger, it forces you to make a split-second decision. But those smaller moments? Life is made of those. You may never be required to sacrifice your life for someone else, but I can guarantee you that there will be moments in every single day where you make a decision about whether you will put someone else's needs ahead of your own. At church recently, the pastor told us to ask ourselves in every conversation and decision:
What does love require of me?
It's a simple question, and the answer will often be obvious. But acting on it? Making a decision out of sacrificial love? It asks you to humble yourself and to serve others. I don't know about you, but that often goes against my natural impulses. But I want to be that kind of person. I know I have a long way to go - and I definitely won't alway get it right - but I want it to be true of my life. I want to love sacrificially, in big moments and in small.
Want to know more about Jojo's books?
While you're at it, be sure to check out
the other stops in the Jump for Jojo blog event!
April 13 / Me Before You / Hello, Chelly
April 14 / One Plus One / Belle of the Literati
April 15 / The Girl You Left Behind / So Obsessed With
April 16 / The Last Letter from Your Lover / Paper Riot
April 17 / Ship of Brides / The Casserole
April 18 / Silver Bay / Alexa Loves Books
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