Until you begin reading The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood, you won’t know how essential it is for you to meet a 104-year-old Lithuanian migrant and the boy who got her living again.
Ona Vitkus, the aforementioned woman, just wants to be left alone, until she is forced to accept the help of an 11-year-old Boy Scout, one obsessed with counting and memorizing Guinness World Records. What begins as a forced transaction becomes a connection that gives Ona new goals beyond just existing. The ramifications of this one connection ripple out, pulling the boy’s on-again-off-again father and his grieving mother into Ona’s orbit. As the two learn about Ona’s relationship with their son, they discover just how special he really was.
The sweet narrative is interrupted at just the right moments with world record lists compiled by the boy and transcriptions of recorded interviews with Ona conducted for a school project. The transcription is one-sided because the boy never speaks during the interviews. But through some literary magic, the reader discovers both more about Ona’s history and, somehow, about the boy. The novel is kind of like when you are asked to draw the space around a subject in art class, only to find at the end that you still drew the object.
This is just one example of the lovely way the author treats the characters. She fleshes them out in just the right way and at just the right moments. And the characters all grow, albeit in different ways – Ona deciding to live; the father deciding to grow up; the mother deciding it’s okay to be happy even after tragedy – but they all force you to invest in their lives. At turns heartbreaking and joyful, this uplifting tale will make you want to call your loved ones and remind them just how important they are to you.