In “One Plus One,” British novelist and journalist Jojo Moyes introduces the reader to the story of Jess Thomas trying to juggle all the demands she faces in her life as a single mother. Living in a small seaside town in England, Jess has a housecleaning business with her friend, Nathalie, and also works in a local pub.
Between work hours, she is raising two kids, her own daughter and Nicky, her 16- year-old stepson from her husband’s first marriage (of whom she has custody). Her ex-husband, Marty, fell into a depression two years earlier and went home to his mother. Jess asks for child support, knowing he has nothing to give. Nicky has had it with social workers and school counselors. He wears Goth makeup and clothes and is being bullied by the neighborhood boys.
Tanzie is Jess’s 10-year-old daughter, whose sidekick is their dog, Norman. She is a math prodigy and has been offered a spot at a prestigious school for the gifted that Jess cannot afford. Her only hope is Tanzie’s winning prize money at an upcoming math competition in Scotland. Jess is constantly broke; one of the themes of the book is money and how the difference between rich and poor grows wider.
One of Jess’ cleaning clients, Ed Nicolls, is a millionaire computer whiz.
Ed is in trouble, as he gave out some insider-trading information on his tech company. He has been kicked out of his own company and could be facing jail time. He has come to his seaside vacation home to avoid the publicity.
The two show an instant dislike for each other, when Ed shows up at the pub where Jess works and gets very drunk. Jess makes sure he gets home safely. After Jess’s car conks out, Ed ends up driving Jess, her kids and their rather large dog to Scotland so that Tanzie can participate in the Math Olympiad.
The author touches on aspects of bullying and the disparities of income inequality. An interesting aspect of this novel is that Ms. Moyes tells the story from each character’s point of view. The author is a talented storyteller who presents an unconventional romance about two people in the most unlikely circumstances and builds the chemistry between the characters in a believable way.