Continuing with the Alphabet Variations Challenge:
Despite her having a healthy catalogue and a movie made from one of her books, this is the first time I’ve picked up a book by Jojo Moyes. One Plus One, published in 2015, was a very enjoyable read, and for Moyes, I’m guessing a more “light-hearted” story.
One Plus One is a title with kind of a double meaning. Our heroine, Jess Thomas, is a 20-something, down on her luck single mother. Her no good husband left her two years ago, also leaving behind their elementary school daughter, Tanze, and a teenage-aged stepson, Nicky, who was the product of his former relationship. That being said, Jess keeps her head up and gets by, employed by a cleaning service by day and a pub at night. She loves her children and pinches pennies to try and give them everything she can. There’s only one problem – or maybe two. First, her goth-styled, gamester stepson is being harassed by the town’s bully, and she was just informed that her precocious 10 year old is a maths genius and should probably attend a pricey private school. With her lack of funds, Jess clearly can’t move them out of their down-trodden neighborhood, let alone afford a private school. But Tanze’s teacher informs them of a Maths Olympiad which will award the winner enough to pay the tuition she needs. If only Jess can get them to the Olympiad, which is being held in Northern Scotland, while also finding the down payment to keep Tanze’s place open in the school.
On the opposite end of the economic spectrum is our hero, Edward Nicholls. Ed is a genius software developer who has built a hugely successful business with his mate from university. He has homes and cars to spare, but his personal life went south when his wife left him, taking half of his worth. With his ego bruised, Ed falls into a ill-judged, brief relationship with a woman who he ends up “paying off” by rashly giving her inside info on a deal that his company is making. Of course, even though Ed has always been a model citizen and has made no illicit money himself, the authorities learn about his actions and charge him with insider trading, threatening the rest of his wealth, his business, as well as his freedom.
Coincidentally, as Ed is awaiting his legal fate, he runs into one of his housecleaners, who also happens to work at the local pub where he’s been drinking away his sorrows. That night Jess stops Ed from driving while drunk, helps to get him home, and ends up rescuing some money that falls out of his pocket. Later, he returns the favor, when he finds Jess, her two children, and their bear-sized dog on the side of the road in a broken down car in which they were trying to reach the Maths competition. Before you know it, and against both of their better judgments, Ed volunteers to drive the whole lot up to Northern Scotland and the adventure begins.
This book is a wonderful, character driven story. Even though I called it “light-hearted”, the characters face huge problems – potential jail time, enormous financial stress, bullying, abandonment, family illness. It’s the way the characters – especially Jess – handles each obstacle, powering through, never saying die that makes the reader cheer for them. And Jess’ ability to put one foot forward after each setback inspires Ed, making him fall for her and for the children who have such faith in her. Of course, you can guess that this mutual support system, such as it is, comes up against an obstacle that even Jess can’t overcome with her gumption or Ed can’t solve with money, leaving this new-found family to breakdown and fall apart. In any event, I honestly can’t say anything bad about this story. Although there were many moving parts and there might have been a glitch in the plot here or there, I was so immersed in the story, rooting for these people, that I didn’t care. I would give Moyes’ story a solid A.
The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 14 down, 5 to go (A, B, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, S …)
The Phonics Challenge – 3 down, 16 to go