Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: "One Plus One" by Jojo Moyes

I first stumbled onto Jojo Moyes last year, when I read Me Before You. One of the best books I read in 2013, it left me a sobbing mess. I also really enjoyed reading The Girl You Left Behind, which didn't cripple me as much emotionally, but still moved and compelled me.

In Moyes' newest book, One Plus One, Jess is in the midst of some hard times. Struggling for money since her husband left more than two years ago, she works two jobs in order to (barely) make ends meet. Her stepson, Nicky, is sullen and not willing to fit in, yet he keeps getting beaten up by the town bullies. Her daughter, Tanzie, is tremendously skilled in mathematics, and her teacher has recommended her for a scholarship at a prestigious private school, which would change Tanzie's life and give her opportunities she wouldn't get otherwise. The problem is, even with significant financial aid, the school is still too expensive for Jess.

Ed Nicholls is a geek-turned-millionaire, whose childhood obsession with computers launched him into a prestigious software career. He's also hit a bit of a rough patch, finding himself cut off from his business and his best friend, forced to take refuge in his vacation home in order to keep a low profile. He and Jess have a few run-ins, as cleaning his vacation home is one of her jobs. But when Jess and the kids find themselves in a time of extraordinary need, Ed becomes their savior, and the four embark on a road trip filled with moments of anxiety and laughter, disclosures and diversions.

One Plus One demonstrates Jojo Moyes' talent as a storyteller. Despite the fact that you can predict early on exactly how the plot will unfold, her characters, even when flawed, are tremendously appealing, people you want to spend time with and learn more about. In particular, I really enjoyed Jess' children, Nicky and Tanzie, as you see how their differences from their peers and their struggles simultaneously make them individuals but cause them significant struggles.

This story isn't without its quirks, and at times it seems like anything that can go wrong, any wrench that can be thrown into the situation does. But One Plus One is sweet and endearing, which makes reading it enjoyable. While this isn't as moving a book as some of Moyes' others, it's still worth picking up, because you'll like participating in the road trip that Jess, Ed, Tanzie, Nicky and their dog must take. Good fun.

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