Excerpt from The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The One-in-a-Million Boy

by Monica Wood

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 336 pages

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PART ONE
BROLIS (BROTHER)

This is Miss Ona Vitkus. This is her life story on tape. This is Part One.

 

Is it on?

...

I can't answer all these. We'll be here till doomsday.

...

I'll answer the first one, but that's it.

...

I was born in Lithuania. In the year nineteen hundred. I don't recall the place. I might have, oh, the vaguest recollection of some farm animals. A horse, or some other large beast. White, with spots.

...

Maybe a cow.

...

I have no idea what type of cows live in Lithuania. But I seem to recollect—you know those spotted dairy-type cows you see everywhere?

...

Holsteins. Thank you. Oh, and cherry trees. Lovely cherry trees that looked like soapsuds in the spring. Big, frothy, flowering things.

...

Then there was a long trip, and a ship's crossing. I remember that in pieces. You've got a million questions on that sheet—

...

Fifty, yes. Fine. I'm just saying, you don't have to ask them in order.

...

Because the story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don't they teach you anything in school?

 

  

CHAPTER 1

She was waiting for him—or someone—though he had not phoned ahead. "Where's the boy?" she called from her porch.

"Couldn't make it," he said. "You Mrs. Vitkus?" He'd come to fill her bird feeders and put out her trash and tender sixty minutes to the care of her property. He could do at least that.

She regarded him peevishly, her face a collapsed apple, drained of color but for the small, unsettling, seed-bright eyes. "My birds went hungry," she said. "I can't manage the ladder." Her voice suggested mashed glass.

"Mrs. Ona Vitkus? Forty-two Sibley Ave.?" He checked the address again; he'd taken two buses across town to get here. The green bungalow sat at the woodsy edge of a dead-end street, two blocks from a Lowe's and a few strides from a hiking trail. Standing in the driveway, Quinn could hear birds and traffic in equal measure.

"It's 'Miss,'" she said haughtily. He caught the faintest trace of an accent. The boy hadn't mentioned it. She'd probably staggered through Ellis Island with the huddled masses. "He didn't come last week, either," she said. "These boys don't stick to things."

"I can't help that," Quinn said, suddenly wary. He'd been led to expect a pink-cheeked charmer. The house resembled a witch's hovel, with its dreary flower beds and sharply pitched dormers and shingles the color of thatch.

"They're supposed to be teaching these boys about obedience. Prepared and kind and obedient ... kind and obedient and ..." She rapped herself lightly on the forehead.

"Clean," Quinn offered.

The boy was gone: clean gone. But Quinn couldn't bring himself to say it.

"Clean and reverent," the woman said. "That's what they promise. They pledge. I thought this one was the real McCoy." Another weak echo of accent: something brushy in the consonants, nothing an ordinary ear would pick up.

"I'm his father," Quinn said.

"I figured." She shifted inside her quilted parka. She also wore a hat with pompoms, though it was fifty-five degrees, late May, the sun beading down. "Is he sick?"

"No," Quinn said. "Where's the birdseed?"

The old woman shivered. Her stockinged legs looked like rake handles jammed into small black shoes. "Out back in the shed," she said. "Next to the door, unless the boy moved it. He gets his little notions. There's a ladder there, too. You're tall. You might not need it." She sized Quinn up as if considering a run at his clothes.

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Excerpted from The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Copyright © 2017 by Monica Wood. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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