Monday, August 11, 2014

One Plus One

One Plus One, the latest novel from Jojo Moyes, the best-selling author of Me Before You was everything I expected; equal parts funny and touching, featuring an engaging tale and likable and relatable characters so finely drawn that I felt like I’d known them a lifetime.

In spite of the fact that life hasn’t been especially kind to her of late, Jess Thomas believes in karma and that “good things happen to good people.” After her husband’s vanishing act, Jess was left to pick up the pieces financially and emotionally. Working two jobs as a house cleaner and bartender to help make ends meet, Jess is a single parent to Nicky, her 16-year old stepson who copes with endless bullying by losing himself in video games, and her quirky math genius 10-year old daughter Tanzie. Oh, and lest I forget, she’s also responsible for Norman, a drooling mammoth of a dog who’s basically an “enormous eating and crapping machine” with a slight flatulence problem that makes him a lethal weapon.

When Tanzie gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend St. Anne’s, a school for gifted children, Jess is thrilled and disheartened at once, since even with a partial scholarship the expense is outside her limited means. Though forced to do the wrong thing for the right reasons, renewed hope comes to Jess in the form of a Math Olympiad offering a cash prize that would make their dreams a reality; and so she packs up the kids and Norman in her ex’s beat up old junker and embarks on what will turn out to be a life-changing odyssey. Murphy’s Law being what it is, they’re stopped by police and their car is impounded only miles from home, but that’s where Ed Nicholls, the unlikeliest of knights in shining armor comes to the rescue.

Tech millionaire Ed Nicholls’ life is currently falling apart after being accused of insider trading. With a possible prison sentence hanging over his head, a best friend and partner who refuses to speak with him, and a sick father he’s too ashamed to visit, the last thing Ed needs is to deal with his cleaning lady and her menagerie of problems. Yet when he comes across the small family stranded on the side of the road, in a moment of madness or a rare bout of pure unselfishness, Ed offers to drive the desperate ragtag bunch to the Olympiad, including Norman and his wide array of evil odors, thereby ensuring a road trip to end all road trips; one which just might change all of their lives.

This was pure genius! It was a smart and hilarious page-turner in which I couldn’t wait to see what hijinks this lovable bunch got into next. A love story filled with heart, compassion and hope, between two people from different worlds that proved good guys and girls, don’t always finish last. You will absolutely fall in love with each member of the Thomas family, Ed and of course, Norman, and at book’s end hate having to say goodbye.

The novel is narrated by all four of the major protagonists in the tale, namely Jess, Ed, Tanzie and Nicky, giving readers an insightful look into the heart and mind of each throughout their journey. The character development and story arc for each was so brilliantly and movingly written that each one – even the darn dog – came across as real, struggling and flawed, but endearing and someone for whom to root for their ultimate happiness. In particular, I loved Jess’ positivity and the tenacity with which she faced life; she might fall, but she plastered on a smile, dusted herself off and got back up again. I think anyone (everyone) will empathize with her struggles and admire her determination to offer her children a happier life.

One Plus One is a heart-warming and at times laugh out loud novel with characters that jump off the page (Hollywood movie? Yes, please). A beautiful, albeit slightly predictable story, that reminds us that love can conquer all.