It’s why I’m so fascinated by optimists. I have friends who don’t see life in headlines, only the possibility of good things. They pass the wine and keep chatting while their children are standing up in small boats. They assume that promotion will be theirs. They never save money – why would they, when something fantastic is around the corner?
It is this relentless optimism – often in the face of all circumstance – that inspired Jess, the lead character in One Plus One. A single mother, working two jobs, living on the breadline and fighting to protect her children from bullies, she nevertheless remains upbeat and sunny, convinced that good things happen to good people. As Ed, her love interest says, she is a woman who wears flip flops in the hope of summer. Even when it’s plainly raining.
I know one such woman – a single parent – who is so relentlessly positive that you have to remind yourself that her child is unwell, that she has no money and a leaking roof. But at what point does that sunny optimism finally crack? In The One Plus One I take a small family of misfits – Jess, her bullied teenage stepson Nicky, her maths prodigy daughter Tanzie and their large smelly dog called Norman, and wedge them into a car with a man at the other end of the social spectrum – a divorced dotcom millionaire who has found himself on the wrong side of insider trading laws – and pitch them all on a crazy road trip; Jess’s attempt to improve the lot of her family. Will Jess’s optimism prove unfounded? Will her stepson see that life can be beautiful? Will Ed, their driver, see beyond his own troubles enough to see this family for what they could be?
The only real road trip I’ve ever been on was, funnily enough, in New Zealand. I was asked to do a book tour, but told my publishers I could only go if my two young children, six month old baby and husband came too (this logic makes perfect sense to someone who has just given birth). For some inexplicable reason they agreed. We spent just over a week driving from the bottom of south island to the tip of north (there was a plane journey involved too), stopping frequently to feed the baby or disentangle the children or just get out and stare at the extraordinary landscape. It was an insane way to do a book tour, involving carry cots, crates of baby food, schedule hitches, laundry facilities, and a hotel concierge who addressed the 6 month old by name, as if he were their most important guest. It was also one of the happiest times of my life.
The readers I have gained in Australia and New Zealand have been so important to me, not just because I am a quarter Antipodean (my granny is from Sydney) because I had support there when my books were far less popular than they are now. But if ever there was a place that inspired optimism, it is there. And if ever there was a time I was going to feel it, it is now.
Thank you for buying my books. I hope if you read The One Plus One, you enjoy it too. And now, with my new optimist’s head on – I know you will!
We love optimist Jess’s sunny disposition, and we’re sure we can all relate to her as she contends with the quirks and challenges of family life.