One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

One Plus One is a compelling novel that explores, with compassion, the lives of people at opposite ends of the social strata. Moyes takes the journey motif - in this case, a road trip - and turns it on its ear with her cast of quirky characters.

The heroine of the book is Jess Thomas. She is a single mother who is barely scraping by with two minimum wage jobs. By day, she is a house cleaner; by night she works in a bar. Bad luck stalks her. Her step son, Nicky, is being bullied in his public high school for being a bit Goth and wearing mascara. Nicky is not merely bullied - he is severely beaten by menacing teen brothers. In the poor development where they live, the police seem unhelpful and the neighbors are unwilling to force an eviction.

Adding to Jess's worries is the fact that her daughter, Tanzy, is a ten-year-old math prodigy. Tanzy is a dreamy girl who likes sparkly clothes and finds solace in prime numbers. Her well-meaning teacher suggests she compete in a Math Olympiad. If she scores high, she may win a scholarship to an elite private school. The immediate problem, though, is how to get to Scotland where the test is given.

Enter Ed, the software designer who feels more comfortable behind a screen than in the world at large. He and his best friend have become millionaires and now head up a company. But Ed has committed a grave error. In an attempt to get rid of an unstable woman, he has given her information that leads to his conviction of insider trading. Now Ed is about to lose everything.

Under advice from his attorney, Ed leaves London and heads to his summer home on the southern coast of England - the home that Jess cleans. Caught up in his own mess and drinking much too heavily, Ed sinks deeper into despair.

Jess's story runs parallel to his own. While Ed's trial looms closer, Jess is seen making two mistakes. The first involves the theft of Ed's wallet when she accompanies him home stone drunk; the second occurs when she attempts an ill-advised trip to Scotland in a car that has been sitting idle for years. Jess also has no license to drive.

Predictably, Jess is stopped by the police and Ed just happens to be driving along that stretch of highway. But Ed is hardly the knight on a white horse. Thinking he owes her a favor, he offers to take the Thomas clan - flatulent dog included - to the testing center in Scotland. And so begins a road trip that some reviewers compare to the 2006 film, Little Miss Sunshine.

One of the many strengths of One Plus One is that it gives a human face to the plight of the working poor. It also highlights the growing chasm between the haves and the have nots. Told from different viewpoints, the novel creates characters who are genuine and all too human.

If you are a fan of Jojo Moyes or just someone looking for a good story well told, check out One Plus One. You'll love it!

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