I read Me Before You for CBR7 and enjoyed it, so I thought I’d start 2016 with another Jojo Moyes novel, One Plus One. Moyes is good at throwing you into a story and making you care about her characters—even if you suspect you know how it will all turn out. As in Me Before You, the novel is set in England and there is a class difference between the main characters–Jess Thomas, a single mom of two, actually cleans the beach house of Ed Nicholls, a successful tech entrepreneur who is about to go down for insider trading.
Jess works two jobs and struggles to support her daughter, Tanzie, and stepson, Nicky. Her husband left two years before and doesn’t contribute any child support. Things are getting even more complicated at the moment for Jess. Nicky, a tall and makeup-wearing teenager, is being bullied at school and is becoming increasingly withdrawn at home. Tanzie is gifted at math and has been offered a place at a prestigious private school but Jess doesn’t have the money to pay the yearly tuition (even with a generous scholarship) or even the deposit. A math competition in Scotland, with a generous prize for the winner, seems the answer but first Jess has to get them (them beingTanzie, Nicky, and a large smelly dog named Norman) there.
Jess has rarely crossed paths with Ed in her work as one of his “cleaners” but during the week Jess finds out about the Math Olympiad, she has two encounters with him—one at his house, that can only be categorized as rude, and the other drunken. Ed shows up at the pub that Jess works at and gets completely plastered. Jess takes his keys, elicits the help of a friend who drives a taxi, and gets Ed home safely and into bed. However, when she gets back to her place in the taxi, she discovers two things have fallen out of Ed’s pockets—a work ID and a large wad of money. Though she vows to pay him back, Jess uses the money to hold Tanzie’s spot at the private school and hopes that this upcoming road trip will help furnish the rest.
As you might expect in a book like this, Jess and Ed’s path will cross and Ed will end up driving Jess and her children and Norman the dog to Aberdeen and many adventures will ensue. There are some echoes of Little Miss Sunshine here (only imagine math calculations versus dance numbers) and also a bit of the Jennifer Crusie romance vibe (two main characters you know will eventually fall for each other, no matter what craziness the plot throw their way). However, there’s also some seriousness here—about how hard it is to live paycheck to paycheck, about wanting things to be better for your children, about how hard it is to be different, etc.
All in all, I think Jojo Moyes is a lot like Jennifer Crusie or Elinor Lipman for me. I know I’m in good hands; I’ll laugh a bit and maybe cry some and end the book feeling upbeat about the world (at least for a few hours anyway). What’s not to love?