One Plus One is a contemporary story about a single mom who struggles to pay her bills while raising her daughter and stepson. Her hubby had left a few years previously, claiming "depression" and moving in with his Mum hours away from Jess and their kids. Still married, he continues to provide excuse upon excuse as to why he doesn't help support the kids and why he won't come home. Meanwhile, Jess works hard at a few jobs: barmaid and cleaning woman.
Enter Ed. He's a self-made software millionaire who doesn't much care about the money he's made. He has a beach home in the village where Jess lives, and she regularly cleans the home. One night, their paths cross and become entangled in an utterly strange, yet completely understandable way. Soon Ed finds himself driving Jess, Tanzie, and Nicky to Scotland in order for Tanzie to compete in a math olympiad. A whiz-bang brilliant mathematician, Tanzie has the opportunity to attend a prestigious, very expensive private school. A scholarship will pay for almost all of her schooling, but Jess has no way to pay for the balance. Unless Tanzie wins the math competition and the grand prize. Gee, no pressure there, right?
This journey to Scotland is the main story of the novel. Ed and Jess have hours--yes, lots of hours to get to know each other on the journey from England to Scotland. I can't tell you why the trip takes so long, but oh my. Just imagine yourself stuck in a car crammed with people and a dog and you'll laugh out loud at all the issues that unfold. Smell-o-vision will spring up without any effort on your part.
So what makes this story so enjoyable? Ed and Jess are two complex characters. Ed has wealth, but a life that is falling apart. Jess is barely making a living, but keeps getting up each day to do it all again because she has no choice. Her eternal optimism and belief in something better keeps her from giving up. Tanzie and Nicky are two kids who don't fit into any easily labeled group and pay the price for being different. They are both wonderful characters and tug at your heart. We all know kids like Tanzie and Nicky. This odd ball group of people come together in a peculiar way and it's a treat to watch their evolution from strangers to a family. Love does find us in strange, unexpected, and wonderful ways.
Rating: 8/10 for a completely different love story populated with characters that are perfectly imperfect.
Available today--July 1st in the US in hardcover, ebook, and audio.
Thanks to Viking/Penguin for a review copy.