One Plus One- Jojo Moyes

I absolutely loved Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You and have been eager to read more of her work, but a lot of her previous novels seem to be more historical romance and I’m much more partial to contemporary romance, so when I saw One Plus One was coming out I was thrilled.  It took me forever to finally read it, but I enjoyed it much like I expected to.

Jess is a single mom of two, struggling to make ends meet and working all the time to do so.  Her daughter, Tanzie, is a math genius who is offered a spot at a prestigious private school and a 90% scholarship.  Problem is, Jess can’t afford the remaining 10%.  But Tanzie’s math teacher has an idea.  Tanzie can enter a math competition in Scotland where, if she wins, the cash prize could help cover the remaining expenses of private school.  On a lark, Jess and her kids set out in their hooptie Rolls Royce, only to end up on the side of the road a few miles outside of town.

Ed is a successful software entrepreneur who is being investigated for insider trading.  He’s been holed up in his summer home and has run into Jess a time or two in her capacity as housekeeper and bartender.  When he sees her stranded on the side of the road, he pulls over.  And he wants to do something to help, something to take his mind off the selfish stupidity in the rest of his life.  So he offers to drive Jess and her kids and their smelly old dog to the math competition.

Over the course of the road trip, Jess and Ed break down the barriers between them, namely the huge class difference between them.  And an attraction develops.  But both their lives are in complete disarray, making it hard for them to build a relationship together.

This book had a lot in common with Me Before You.  Both feature a young working class woman who doesn’t see any way out of her present situation, but with a bright outlook on life and a slightly older wealthy man with big problems who really benefits from seeing how the other half lives and getting a healthy dose of optimism.  But this one is more of a romance.  And Me Before You dealt with a much heavier subject matter.  Unfortunately, the similarities between the two books made it impossible not to measure them against one another.  And while One Plus One was just as addicting and just as full of interesting and real characters, because its subject matter wasn’t as heavy or life-or-death it felt a little fluffy in comparison.  I know Moyes can do something heavier and deeper and more impactful, so it was slightly disappointing to not get that here.

All that said, I enjoyed this story and would recommend it to chick lit fans.  Moyes constructs some really endearing characters who are facing real struggles, but who persevere nonetheless.  But if you’ve read Me Before You, come at this with different expectations, as it does not carry the same emotional weight.

Me Before You- Jojo Moyes

Goodreads Summary:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

My Thoughts:

I’m 99% sure I picked up this book based entirely on the blurb and really had no idea that I was getting into a serious story, rather than a romance.  Lou, short for Louisa, is hired to be the companion/caretaker of a wealthy quadriplegic man, Will.  Will, who used to be a big-shot financial partner, globetrotter, and thrill-seeker, is depressed and sullen and angry to be stuck in a wheelchair, confined to 24-hour care for the rest of his life.  He wants a big life and now that is out of his reach forever.  Lou, in contrast, lives a small life, limited by her socioeconomic standing, her education, and her feelings of unworthiness and incapability.  She is from a working class family and sees nothing more for herself beyond working in a cafe or a factory, dating the same boy she has for the last six years, and living at home with her family.

Getting to know one another is a life-changing experience for both Lou and Will.  Lou gains some confidence in herself through her mission to cheer Will up and starts to see possibilities for herself due to Will’s influence.  Will finds something worth waking up for in the mornings.  Ultimately, however, I wouldn’t call this much of a romance.  Really, it more a coming of age story for Lou.

Commentary about assisted suicide drives much of the book.  I don’t want to go into it too much because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can’t say I had previously given much thought to the issues of life-long disability or assisted suicide.  After reading this, however, I find myself really pondering what I would do if I were in Will’s shoes or Lou’s or Will’s parents.  How do you make an impossible choice between a painful life and an unknown death?  How do you live with the devastating choices of a loved one?  I’m not sure I have an answer.  Or that I want the experiences that could give me an answer.

I could not put this book down.  I really liked Lou’s narration.  I thought she was a very endearing character and was really rooting for her to make something of herself.  Will was very prickly and sarcastic and I really have a thing for prickly characters, so I enjoyed seeing him banter with Lou and was happy when we got a glimpse of his softer side.  There are a handful of chapters from alternate POVs and while I am not sure they were absolutely necessary, they seem to be used as a device for providing backstory and in a couple places acted as a sort of time-out for emotional turning points in the story.  I am really tired of multiple POVs in every single book I read, but I think it was used appropriately (and sparsely) here, so I guess I can let it slide.

Ultimately, this is a powerful story about making the most out of life.  It will tug at your heartstrings and make you think about death and hard choices.  I think this one will stick with me for quite a while.