Rated Reads

One Plus One

by Jojo Moyes

Rated: High

Jess is basically a single mom, raising an exceptionally bright preteen daughter and her husband’s teen Goth son, who’s getting bullied by neighborhood boys. Her husband has been gone for two years, supposedly living with his mother a few hours’ drive north of her home in the south of England. She doesn’t miss him per se, just the possibility of his being able to help financially and with the kids, but she’s given him leeway because of his depression. She’s kind of getting by on jobs as a waitress and as a maid, but then her daughter is offered the opportunity to attend a private school that could nurture her talent in math. Most of the tuition will be paid, but even the small amount remaining is more than she can swing. When she hears last-minute about a math competition that actually pays money to the winner, she thinks that might be the answer. But how will she get there with no car and no extra money?

Ed is a successful owner of a software company that’s just been bought out. He’s a bit of a geek but has toned his physique and gotten expert advice on haircuts and style, enough to have an ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend. His life is moving along nicely enough except for annoyances with the ex-wife — and then he makes the mistake of telling the girlfriend that his company stock is about to shoot up in value because of the sale. Without benefiting at all from the information himself, except getting the annoying woman out of his life, Ed finds himself the focus of an insider-trading investigation.

Jess and Ed meet when she comes in to clean his vacation home and he’s there, frantically trying to figure out how to deal with his screwed-up situation. And somehow, they end up on the road together, along with Jess’s two kids and giant dog, on the way to the math competition hours away.

These two people couldn’t seem more different, but they do happen to have traits that can help each other, as they eventually learn on what becomes a particularly crazy trip (naturally). They also (naturally) seem destined to fall for each other, could even make a good team. But can they get past their pasts, their hurts, their own mental roadblocks?

Jojo Moyes takes what could be a predictable plot device for making two people fall in love with each other and gives it depth and that something extra. The characters are ones the reader will root for, and everything adds up in One Plus One, just not in a predictable way.

Rated: High, for a solid three dozen uses of f-words (really? why does she need to use so many? So unnecessary, and unexpected, since there weren’t nearly this many in her previous books) and a few brief vulgar sexual references. There are also some brief references to violence.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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