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Thursday, August 28, 2014

One Plus One: a Novel

          Here is a novel that combines the realistic with the romantic. The author is JoJo Moyes, a British writer who is successful in her home country and is gaining recognition in the United States.
         Our heroine is Jess, a single mother with two children, who works many hours as a co-partner for a house cleaning service and also as a barmaid. She has sent her estranged husband, who is unemployed and supposedly in the throes of depression, to live with his mother until his prospects improve. Jess is reluctant to ask him for child support since he cannot support himself. Jess’s stepson Nicky is the victim of bullies. Her daughter Tanzie is a math genius who is offered a scholarship to a prestigious private school but Jess has difficulty making up the final ten percent of fees needed. Despite her problems, Jess has an optimistic outlook on life, believing that something will turn up to solve their problems.

         Then we meet Ed. He is a techie geek who co-founded a software company with his friend; eventually selling it to “the suits” (businessmen) but still working for the company. Ed is a millionaire, although not as wealthy since his ex-wife got a lot of his money in the divorce settlement. Ed also is one of Jess’s house cleaning clients; they do not care for one another.  Things fall apart for Ed when he is charged with giving “insider information” to a romantic partner. An investigation ensues and Ed is asked not to return to work until the enquiry is completed.

         Jess is told that there is a math tournament in Scotland for which Tanzie is eligible, winning one of the prizes could pay towards her schooling. Jess, the children and the dog take off in a dilapidated old car, breaking down on the highway. Charged by the police for driving without insurance, who should come to the rescue but Ed, who in an attempt to avoid his personal problems and a desire to do something to boost his feelings of self-worth, offers to drive them all to Scotland in his car.

         The road trip that follows, and the events beyond it, are at turns hysterical and serious.  The characters in this book are fully fleshed out and encourage the reader to care about each one. Comedy and pathos combine, yet things work out in the end; making for an enjoyable reading experience.

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