Tuesday, June 07, 2016

“One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes – Merging Opposite Worlds

It is said that opposites supposedly attract in life, but most of us have observed that only to be true for magnets. As it happens, people who are quite different tend to have unfulfilling friendships or relationships, if not outright being on bad terms. Nevertheless, in life as in literature, miracles do happen sometimes and the most surprising combinations can lead to the most unexpected results, as it does Jojo Moyes' One Plus One .

In this novel we are introduced to Jess, a hard-working woman whose life is in very strange shambles. Under pressure from all the terrible decisions he's made, her husband decided to go away and live with his mother for a couple weeks... that was two years ago. Jess is working multiple jobs to provide for her two kids, one of which isn't even hers. She's barely making ends meet, her son is having trouble with bullies, while her mathematically-gifted daughter has been offered an education in a prestigious school in London, something the family simply cannot afford.

On the other end of the spectrum, meet Ed, a relatively rich man who has the fortune of working with his best friend and living in the house of his dreams, with Jess working there as a maid... only the quest for love has left him empty-handed in life so far. In addition, he has recently found himself in a certain amount of trouble that could prove quite devastating for his career. As him and Jess get slightly closer, an opportunity presents itself for her daughter in the form of a math competition, the prize of which could ensure her future education... the only problem being, it's taking place in Scotland. Perhaps committing his first real act of kindness and altruism in recent memory, Ed decides to help them out, taking them on a painfully slow road-trip (which includes a big, smelly dog) to Scotland, towards new and happier horizons.

While at first glance it does seem like One Plus One is another chick lit book, there is a whole lot of depth to be found in this family drama, something that is frankly expected out of Jojo Moyes, considering her previous works at least. Each and every one of the characters is fleshed out as much possible, with Moyes exploring the nooks and crannies of their minds, taking care to depict them in realistic and believable fashion, with flaws, talents, hopes, dreams, aspirations, values, beliefs and whatnot. She really succeeds in creating a world that is populated with unique and memorable people, many of whom can be related to, or have something to teach by virtue of their words or actions. This is especially true for Jess and Ed, with the relationship between them slowly budding and awkwardly growing, them being from completely opposite worlds. It's a real pleasure to see life at work in bringing unlikely people together and giving them both salvation.

The story itself has a lot of substance to it, with many moments that will make you laugh, cry, sob, rage, sigh and ponder. It is a family drama that tackles on a lot of heavier subjects, including poverty, single parenting, bullying, dysfunctional families, passing a point of no return, second chances, injustice... just to name a few. While the humour is almost certainly present all along, this novel makes for a very diverse reading experience, one that will definitely impact you in more ways than one with its wisdom and the stories it tells of people who feel all too real.

In conclusion, One Plus One is yet another tour-de-force by Jojo Moyes, a family drama that meditates on the human condition with a healthy dose of comedy. I recommend it to anyone likes the author's previous works or is looking for a slower-paced, more thoughtful kind of story that revolves around a unique kind of family.

Jojo Moyes

Personal site

Jojo Moyes is an English novelist and journalist hailing from London. She has the distinction of being one of the few authors to have won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award on two occasions, the first time around in 2004 for her novel Foreign Fruit, and once again in 2011 with “The Last Letter From Your Lover”.

More of the Jojo Moyes' book reviews:
The Last Letter from Your Lover
Me Before You
The Girl You Left Behind

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