“Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.”
Thoughts: Jess is a modern-day Pollyanna, when that type of optimism seemingly has no place in today’s jaded, disaffected society. She is a literary Energizer Bunny, in that she takes every hit life can throw at her and remains not only upright but positive that her situation will improve. She plows through life with a determination not only to beat the odds but to achieve success on her terms. Parents know that they will do whatever possible to keep their children happy and healthy, but Jess all but shames that philosophy as she endures humiliation after humiliation for her children’s support. The sacrifices she makes on behalf of her children, her selflessness, and her unconditional love for them are awe-inspiringly beautiful. Readers will find themselves questioning whether they would ever be able to endure half of what Jess does without becoming completely disillusioned by life.
For all her optimism though, Jess is not without her flaws. Because readers see Jess at her low points, when putting on a happy face proves to be too difficult even for her, when she makes poor but understandable choices and must live with the consequences, when she lashes out and despairs of ever getting ahead, these are the moments in which Jess transforms from a fictional character to a very real one. Her fears are every parent’s fears. Her frustrations and anger are not only understandable but justified given the circumstances. There is a depth to her that makes her relatable and highly empathetic.
The same can be said of Ed even though his circumstances are the complete opposite of Jess’. Ed is the lovable geek, the one who does not relate well to others but who has a genuinely good heart. He is aloof, gruff, and out of touch with most of society given his extreme wealth and connections, but readers will innately understand those anti-social tendencies. In fact, one could argue we all have similar blind spots, especially when it comes to people outside of our economic sphere. Ed is not a bad guy; he is just clueless about others’ hardships because he could be so. As with Jess, there is something immensely relatable about Ed. He is the type of character readers will want to protect because he is so out of touch with reality.
One Plus One renews one’s faith in humanity and remind readers that the good guy will win. As in Ms. Moyes’ other novels, her characters speak volumes about the choices we make in life and the ownership we must take of the consequences of those choices. Jess’ situation will simultaneously break a reader’s heart at the sheer number of bad breaks she must overcome and will jump for joy when she finally stops reacting and starts being proactive. Ed’s evolution from a standoffish tech geek to a penitent and aware active member of society is a joy to behold. Readers will relish the easy banter and welcoming tone of the story. More importantly, they will take away a greater understanding of those struggling to make ends meet and will recognize the need for empathy for all economic situations.