"One Plus One" is by the incredibly talented Jojo Moyes (author of "Me Before You.") It's a book filled with quirky-but-lovable characters, heartrending situations, humor, and lots and lots of love. Not one of the characters in the story is perfect, but their foibles are part of their charm -- and there's plenty of charm to be found in the pages of this story.
The story is about Ed Nicholls, a guy who is brilliant at technology (he's a millionaire because of his tech company) who is the opposite of brilliant when it comes to women. He is currently being investigated for insider trading because of his inept efforts to get rid of a clingy girlfriend.
The story is also about Jess and her family. Jess has been cleaning houses to support her family since her husband left them two years ago. He was depressed and Jess didn't want to cause him additional stress by demanding child support. In addition to her daughter, she cares for her stepson. They have no money and live in a town where the local bullies make her children's lives intolerable.
Nicky, her stepson, wears makeup and doesn't know where he belongs. He was abandoned by his mother at the age of eight, and had never been shown any love at all until he began living with Jess. Tanzie, her daughter, is a maths "freak," who is so advanced at math (in England they use the plural) that her current teacher says she has surpassed him.
Tanzie has the opportunity to go to a private school where she will have a virtually unlimited shot at success in life. But to get the money for her share of tuition (even with a 90% scholarship, the cost is out of Jess's reach), Tanzie will have to compete in a Math Olympiad -- where the winning prize could pay for three years of school.
Through a series of events, Ed Nicholls ends up driving the family across England to Scotland so that Tanzie can compete. The trip is filled with humor -- their large dog Norman drooling and passing gas in the car, Ed watching his once-immaculate car turn into a much-less-than-immaculate vehicle, Jess insisting on making sandwiches so they don't have to pay for restaurants, two of them sleeping in the car, and much more.
The story is about relationships and how they change us. It's also about how even the best-intentioned people can make huge mistakes, and we shouldn't be judged by those very human missteps. As in "Me Before You" Moyes creates characters and situations that readers can relate to -- and her stories force readers to reflect on values and assumptions in a new manner.
The publicist writes that "when you turn the last page, you'll want to start over again." I concur.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books (Viking), for review purposes.
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