Publisher: Headline | Publication date for EBook & HB: 5th April 2016
This exceptionally bewitching marvel of book is itself one-in-a-million.
Every word, every phrase, every dialogue exchange with its acute sense of timing throughout, gives new definition to the word perfection. When I’d finished reading I was reluctant to close the cover, as I wanted to hold onto the story just that little bit longer.
Gushingly sentimental it’s not. Gloriously heart-warming and wonderful? Without a shadow of a doubt. It delves into the core of being an exception to the rule of life, while living it the only way you know how and hopefully learning a few things along the way.
Take a curious eleven year old boy scout, who adores lists and can recite facts and figures with very little effort yet doesn’t interact easily with others his age. His musician dad, Quinn, hasn’t been on the scene and his librarian mother, Belle, is currently seeing the helpful scoutmaster. Now throw him to the mercy of 104 year old Miss Ona Vitkus where his role is to fill her bird feeders, and hopefully he’ll gain more badges for his efforts. What actually occurs is a magical coming together for a common cause, a unique and precious mutual understanding: they are going to try to win a world record, several in fact, if time will allow.
Their success will rely not on practice but soly on the hand of fate, as the result of their chosen goal cannot be pre-determined in this instance. Having a cast-iron will certainly helps, and Miss Vitkus has that in abundance. Without even trying, her endearing wily ways will leave a lasting impression on everyone she meets – even if they don’t know it yet.
There’s also a wonderful transcript from a series of tape recordings our budding scout has made for a school project and Miss Vitkus is the reluctant star of the show. These are shared intermittently between chapters in a ten part candid interview, where she reveals pieces of her life that have not passed her lips in decades. The lad has a way about him like that, an innocence when asking questions that would otherwise seem impertinent, yet she admires him for it and she rewards him with card tricks for his trouble. Unwittingly, he makes her realise that it’s never too late to feel remarkable, it just takes a little encouragement from the right source.
All but one character is named. Our young scout is identified only as, ‘the boy’ throughout. His physical appearance is brief, but his sense of wonderment and dedication are constant – he’s a very special chap indeed. When his non-committal father vows to continue his son’s duties for a while, a distinctive legacy begins to touch the souls of everyone in the boy’s life, the reading audience included.
I’m aware it’s only March, but this is a very strong contender for my book of the year – that’s how much I love it. I’d give it all the stars in the sky if I could, and more…
(My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC of this book via a Goodreads giveaway.)
*** Also available – A short story called: A Woman in a Million, published on 14th January 2016 ***
This short episode fleshes out a very small portion of life before ‘The One-in-a-Million Boy’.
It serves as an excellent introduction to a 100 year old lady by the name of Miss Ona Vitkus, whose neighbours and their good intentions are convinced she would simply love to have ‘the time of her life’ at a birthday bash, and yet she’s not really warming to the idea.
The kind do-gooders can’t seem grasp that there’s so much more to Miss Vitkus than cajoling her into having a party at their behest. There’s her driving test for one: Yes, she’s aware she’s just turned 100, but age is just a number to this ‘Woman in a Million’ – she seriously knows her own mind and could out-smart most people if she so choses.
Having recently read ‘One-in-a-Million Boy’ I’d wholeheartedly recommend both stories, as the characters, the plot, and the writing are something very special indeed.
At the time of writing this review this short story was in fact free to download. At just 35 pages it’s well worth a look as a light starter before the most enchanting main course.
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
A one-in-a-million story for anyone who loves to laugh, cry, and think about how extraordinary ordinary life can be. Not to be missed by readers who loved THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY, ELIZABETH IS MISSING or THE SHOCK OF THE FALL.
Miss Ona Vitkus has – aside from three months in the summer of 1914 – lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.
The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never…
Only it’s been two weeks now since he last visited, and she’s starting to think he’s not so different from all the rest.
Then the boy’s father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son’s good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life’s ambition to complete . . .
Monica Wood grew up in Maine, USA, where she lives today. She worked as a high school guidance counsellor and in a nursing home before becoming a full-time writer in her mid-thirties. She has a love of music, and for several years travelled the bar and club circuit of New England singing jazz, country, pop and gospel. She teaches writing, often in a women’s prison, where she says ‘I’ve discovered some of the best students anyone could ask for.’
Monica Wood is the author of several acclaimed novels, and the award-winning memoir When We Were The Kennedys. Her short stories have appeared in many anthologies and have won a Pushcart prize.