One Plus One, by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes proved herself to me a few years ago when I read Me Before You. So I thought I would try her again when I found One Plus One at the library. And I’ll admit that love stories involving working-class women are getting more and more relatable all the time.

Jess Thomas is stretched thin: her daughter, Tanzie, is a lonely math genius; her son, Nicky, is an eccentric, bullied gamer; and her estranged husband cannot support her financially. She has a cleaning business with her friend, but it does not pay the best. When a lucrative math competition comes along that could send her daughter to the school of her dreams, Jess schemes to drive her children there at once, betting that Tanzie will win. But when car trouble rears its head, her sometime employer, Ed Nicholls, comes to her rescue. What follows is a wacky road trip of bad hotels, drunken shenanigans, and a bit of much-needed romance.

Like any other romance I’ve reviewed, there isn’t a whole lot to say about it. Every part of the romance formula is nicely placed. The characters are fun and interesting and the adventures are kind of silly sometimes.

Part of why this book works is because I relate heavily to Jess. Though I don’t consider myself as stretched thin as she is, I relate to just trying to keep your head above water when life slam dunks you to the ground. Her frustration at her own helplessness and the slow speed with which people help her (or don’t, more like) feels completely justified.

She did grind my gears a little bit with how stubborn she was in refusing help. Like, sweetie, you are two steps away from destitution, and you’re not going to accept the slightest generosity? At one point, good fortune allows her to pay a huge bill, and even then, she is hesitant to accept the money, even stating that she’ll have to pay those good folks back. Like, honey, just take the money, thank the good people who gave it to you, and do with it what you must!

Ed, our leading man, also feels real because he makes an honest mistake that lands him in trouble with the law. He wanted to break up with a clingy girlfriend and spare her feelings, so he gave her confidential information from his company. He’s also dealing with his dying father whom he is terrified of disappointing with the transgression.

In short, all our protagonists want is a break, but their to-do lists keep growing and people keep demanding more of them. Anyone who’s spent several years in adulthood knows this woe quite well and should see something of themselves in Jess or Ed.

And so, you’re more than willing to follow them when they buy a hundred pairs of drugstore glasses or choosing a hotel with a thirsty landlady. As well as why it’s so satisfying to finally see them confide in each other.

Poor Ed and Jess…they just want to have someone to talk about their troubles with, but there are a few too many assholes in each of their lives.

Still, I like Jess’s family. Her daughter, Tanzie, is a math genius who is much smarter than her ten years should allow, but she still feels like a little girl. Nicky may be kind of an angsty teenager, but he will protect his family like a boss. You just want to see everything turn out all right for them, because they’re good people always getting the short end of the stick.

For once, I did not really mind the third-act misunderstanding, since it was pretty important for Jess and Ed to be brought so low to learn their lessons. It was also interesting that it all happens through Tanzie or Nicky’s perspectives, to show how far the consequences of that misunderstanding stretched. 

Needless to say, since this is a romance, most everything turns out all right in the end, so it’s a satisfying read. It’s not the greatest, most compelling romance I’ve read, but it does show good people just trying to make it through hard times together. Not everything gets wrapped up in a tight little bow, but they’re okay with that, as long as they keep figuring it out. And I think I’m perfectly okay with that too.

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