Summary and book reviews of The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One-in-a-Million Boy

by Monica Wood

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

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Book Summary

The incandescent story of a 104-year-old woman and the sweet, strange young boy assigned to help her around the house — a friendship that touches each member of the boy's unmoored family.

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

For years, guitarist Quinn Porter has been on the road, chasing gig after gig, largely absent to his twice-ex-wife Belle and their odd, Guinness records–obsessed son. When the boy dies suddenly, Quinn seeks forgiveness for his paternal shortcomings by completing the requirements for his son's unfinished Boy Scout badge.

For seven Saturdays, Quinn does yard work for Ona Vitkus, the wily 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant the boy had visited weekly. Quinn soon discovers that the boy had talked Ona into gunning for the world record for Oldest Licensed Driver — and that's the least of her secrets. Despite himself, Quinn picks up where the boy left off, forging a friendship with Ona that allows him to know the son he never understood, a boy who was always listening, always learning.

The One-in-a-Million Boy is a richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the opening pages, we discover that the boy of the title has died. And yet, he is a catalyst for everything that happens afterward. How did you perceive the boy's role in the story--as an absence? A presence? A sort of invisible stage manager? Did you sometimes forget that he was no longer alive?
  2. For the first time in her life, Ona gives away her secrets—to a child. What is it about the boy that Ona instinctively trusts?
  3. Ona observes, "People like Quinn, always running from themselves, loved the road." What does she mean by this? Is Quinn the only character "on the run" here?
  4. "You reveal a character in two ways," the author has said. "One, how the character views the world. Two, how the world views the character." Does this ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The One-in-a-Million Boy. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

"He's just who he is," Belle says, bristling against labels. Is Belle right? Does it matter?
She is right, but I think it can be helpful to have a name for a set of characteristics. Ona was "old" but that didn't define her, and a label of autism or Aspergers shouldn't define people with these traits. The name helps other people understand ... - BetsyBookWorm

All about Louise...
I agree that Louise shouldn't have expected Ona to cover for her, especially since she "did the deed." Though we don't find that out until much later. And maybe their meeting again years later was a bit unrealistic, but then that's why we read ... - juliep

Despite Quinn's flaws, do you like him? If not, did you understand why he behaves the way he does?
I think Quinn is sort of the "ordinary person" in this book. Like Quinn, a lot of us go through life just going through life - we don't really appreciate people who aren't like us just like Quinn couldn't appreciate the boy, Belle, or (at first) Ona.... - BetsyBookWorm

Did meeting Ona change your presumptions about extreme old age? Do you have any extremely old people in your life?
When I was young, I couldn't really see older people as people - they were just "old people." It was hard to relate to them. Then my mother got to be very old, and I realized that she was still herself. Now I'm getting older and feel like I'm still ... - BetsyBookWorm

Did you find it strange that no one told Ona initially that the boy had died?
Yes! Why couldn't the Scouts have said something to her, they were bringing the boy to help her- a word to her would have been kind. I understand why it would have been difficult for Quinn, but there certainly were others who could have stepped in.... - alissac

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Maine Sunday Telegram

Intricately woven ... The One-in-a-Million Boy is provocative, and it evokes Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See for its twin story lines and the theme of endless searching for an anchor point. The ending is a deeply affecting surprise.

Booklist

Wood’s portrait of a fractured, grieving family is peopled by endearing characters and should appeal to readers who enjoy the family-centered novels of Jodi Picoult and Kristin Hannah.

Publishers Weekly

Wood maintains the boy’s unknowability by allowing just one (heartrending) scene from his point of view, which walks a thin line between sweet and saccharine, resulting in a devastating story.

Reader's Digest (UK)

The book expands to cover an enormous amount of emotional ground, as Wood treats a large cast of fundamentally decent but struggling characters with a winning mix of sharpness and sympathy...Wood is able to convey the deepest of emotions in a few quietly devastating sentences.

The Herald (UK)

This is a novel about many things: isolation, community, music, language and friendship. Wood's prose sparkles with lyrical descriptions and sharp observations about people and their motivations. But the over-arching theme running through it all concerns second chances. Even when you're older than a century, life still has the capacity to surprise you.

The Sunday Mirror (UK)

Beautifully written, cleverly constructed, at times hilariously funny and ultimately deeply affecting – this should be a smash.

The Sunday TImes (South Africa))

This is a bittersweet page-turner that celebrates the everyday soul.

The Blurb Magazine (Australia)

If you're looking for a book that entertains and is thought-provoking at the same time, The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood has that wrapped up in a bright red package. Themes of ageing, regret, love and loss, ambition and unexplored dreams abound in the beautifully written The One-in-a-Million Boy. ... I loved this book.

Author Blurb Christina Baker Kline, author of the international bestseller Orphan Train
In The One-in-a-Million Boy, Monica Wood tells a magical, beautifully written story about the healing power of friendship, music, and unexpected, generation-spanning connections. As emotionally resonant as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this novel hums with energy, warmth, wisdom, humor, and soul.

Reader Reviews

Marcia S.

The boys legacy
This was such a wonderful book. The characters are so well-written and you find yourself wanting the best for them. The boy touches hearts and changes lives. It's not your usual "feel good" story, as the characters experience pain.This is ...   Read More

Veronica

The ONE-IN-A-MILLION-BOY
WONDER by R J. Palacio is one of my all time favorite books. If it was one of yours you will most likely find One in a Million Boy a delight to read. Insightful, heart tugging, and a feel good book with a tough story line. Recommended for all ages.

Sandi W.

Age is only a number....
A fantastic and heartwarming story about an unlikely friendship between an 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant and a 11-year-old Boy Scout. The bond they share is uniquely special, and will definitely touch your heart. It really was best not knowing ...   Read More

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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

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