(Image from Barnes & Noble)
A single mom, Jess Thomas struggles every day to make ends meet. Her husband, from whom she's been separated for two years, fights depression and is unable to hold a job. The little money Jess makes from working two part-time jobs has to stretch far enough to support herself, her 10-year-old daughter Tanzie, and her moody teenage stepson, Nicky. So, when an incredible educational opportunity for Tanzie, a maths prodigy, arrives, Jess is heartbroken that she doesn't have the funds to take it. A competition that could solve the problem provides a bit of a silver lining, except Jess isn't sure how she's going to transport her family all the way to Scotland. The unfairness of it all is breaking her already battered heart.
Enter Ed Nicholls, an arrogant 33-year-old tech millionaire, who's also one of Jess' cleaning clients. Under investigation for insider trading, he's watching his posh, successful life go down the drain. In a move completely inconsistent with his personality, an unselfish act he doesn't quite understand himself, Ed agrees to drive Jess, Tanzie, Nicky, and their stinky dog, Norman, to Scotland. Disgusted with the motley crew assembled in his luxury vehicle, he's sorely tempted to leave them all by the roadside. But something about the eternally optimistic Jess and her desperate situation touches his stone cold heart. As the miles slip by, his own troubles take a back burner, and he finds himself warming to the quartet in his care.
But, what will happen when the road trip bubble bursts and reality seeps in again? Will Tanzie win the competition, thus gaining entrance to the elite school she so desires to attend? Will Jess be able to carry on? Will Ed go to prison? The closer the group gets to Scotland, the more the tension builds. When everything blows up in their faces, as it inevitably does, what will happen to our heroes?
Warm and authentic, One By One by Jojo Moyes, is a gem of a novel. It's funny, it's sad, it's real, it's redemptive. I laughed, I cried, I smiled, I cheered. Seriously, I loved this book for so many different reasons—its engrossing, compelling plot; its complex, sympathetic characters; its upbeat, affable tone; etc. Really, everything about it. I've heard many readers rave about Jojo Moyes. Now, I'm adding my voice to theirs. Moyes is brilliant and I can't wait to read more from this talented English writer.
(Readalikes: Moyes' writing reminds me of Liane Moriarty's, although the former's has a little bit more of an edge to it.)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language, violence, sexual content, and references to illegal drug use
To the FTC, with love: Another library