One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Pub. Date: July 1, 2014
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Pamela Dorman/Penguin!!)
Summary: Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.
Rating: (hello, it’s JOJO)
Whenever Jojo Moyes releases a new novel I know I’m in for a good time. The moment I have it in my hands I begin planning my day around it (I do not appreciate being interrupted while reading her books!) and set aside huge blocks of time in which to dive deep into Jojo’s worlds. Since reading the incredible The Girl You Left Behind last year, I have since gone on to work my way through her backlist (something I rarely do). One Plus One is my fourth Jojo to date (The Last Letter from Your Lover and Silver Bay were both devoured earlier this year) and, while I’ve adored them all, Jojo’s growth and ever-sharpening skills as a writer are evident with each novel.
Because my first two forays into Jojo’s works were dual-era novels, I had mistakenly assumed this was her shtick. Silver Bay taught me that wasn’t the case and One Plus One follows in its footsteps while still employing the multiple narratives that I love so much. Jess doesn’t have much. She lives in a government-provided home, works as a house cleaner for wealthy vacationers, and struggles to make ends meet. Her husband took off two years ago and left Jess to support their daughter and his son on her own. Nicky, a smart-but-brooding teenager, is relentlessly bullied by the neighboring kids. Tanzie is an odd little girl, but phenomenal at math.
One phone call changes their world. When Tanzie is granted a hefty scholarship to an elite private school, Jess is left to find a way to come up with the rest of the cash – and fast. Word of a Mathematics Olympics has the family – and their gigantic dog – piling into a less-than-reliable car and on their way to Scotland.
When Ed was in college, the world was in his palms. He partnered with a buddy and together they created a booming software business, leaving both of them very well-off. Unfortunately, Ed ended up in a rather compromising position with an old college friend and now phrases like ‘insider trading,’ ‘litigation fees,’ and – the worst – ‘jail time’ have become a part of his life. In an attempt to lay low for a bit, Ed heads down the coast to stay in his beachfront home. When he first meets the cleaner he doesn’t give her the time of day. The second time he meets her (and her kids and dog broken down on the side of the road) he decides to do something right for once: Ed offers to drive them to Scotland.
To say One Plus One is a road trip novel would be selling it short. Yes, technically, it is, but it’s about so much more. These are flawed, broken characters who, over the course of the book, discover what it’s like to love and be loved in return. My emotions ran the gamut: I laughed, I cried, I fretted over several choices made but stood in their corner through it all. While reading I lived and breathed these characters and now that it’s over, I’m left feeling like I’m six years old again and my best friend has just moved away. I cannot praise Jojo’s skill highly enough. She took a relatively ordinary story – single mom trying to support her kids – and turned it into something extraordinary.
One of my favorite things about any Jojo novel is the sheer amount of character growth. She has a no-holds-barred kind of attitude when it comes to her stories and seriously puts her characters through the wringer. Nicky, a Goth boy who likes eyeliner and prefers online friends, became so much more than a moody teenager. Ed, at first an extremely unlikable, egotistical man, did a complete 180° and turned out to be a fantastic – and fascinating – character.
I feel this review is more of me spouting my love for Jojo than anything and, as with each of her books, I’m struggling to find just the right words to say. One Plus One is story that made my heart swell and break – usually within the same chapter! For me, it’s a perfect summertime read, though in a different way than your average beach read. The characters come alive and their circumstances – trying to keep up with bills, going from paycheck to paycheck – hit home for many. While most beach reads are about escape, One Plus One takes hold of your hand and shows you there are others out there just like you. And who doesn’t love a smelly, drooling dog?
One Plus One is a phenomenal novel and firmly secures Jojo’s rank as one of my favorite authors. Are you a long-time fan? Read this. Are you still new to her work and feel a bit overwhelmed by all the love she’s received? Read this. Are you looking for a damn fine story? Read this.
“You know, you spend your whole life feeling like you don’t quite fit in anywhere. And then you walk into a room one day, whether it’s at university or an office of some kind of club, and you just go, ‘Ah. There they are.’ And suddenly you feel at home.”
The only things Jess really cared about were those two children and letting them know they were okay. Because even if the whole world was throwing rocks at you, if you had your mother at your back, you’d be okay. Some deep-rooted part of you would know you were loved. That you deserved to be loved.
He dropped his head and kissed her. He kisses her and it was a kiss of utter certainty, the kind of kiss during which monarchs die and whole continents fall without your even noticing.