The One-in-a-Million-Boy by Monica Wood is another book for the Octogenarian category in the 2018 Reading Challenge. On the surface it’s a lovely story about a socially awkward boy who has a fascination with Guinness world records. The boy, who remains nameless throughout the novel, is attempting to fulfill requirements to obtain another badge in Boy Scouts. It is this project that pairs him with an elderly Lithuanian woman, Ona Vitkus. During these visits to assist her with chores an unlikely friendship develops. In addition to friendship, the boy has a fierce ambition for her to obtain some sort of Guinness award for being the oldest to do something. After some thought and persuasion, the boy and Ona start working towards the goal of obtaining a Guinness world record for being the oldest licensed driver. The determination and focus that the boy demonstrates changes Ona as she can no longer just sit by with her thoughts of loneliness in seeing everyone she has ever loved die before her. The relationship Ona has with the boy takes her out of her isolated life.
But as stories often go, there are some twists, by the second page of the book you as the reader learn that boy has died. The boy’s father, who was absent from his day-to-day life, takes over doing chores for Ona. He continues this project his son started out of obligation and the unhinged feeling of grief. The father is lost in grief, but by helping Ona, he learns about the son he never really understood. There are sad parts of the book but it is more a celebration of the boy and his imprint on those who were willing to see him for his true self, beyond his social awkwardness.
As a story about friendship and family, it is also about seeing the best in people and looking beyond the surface and beyond judgement. This book is a quick read that spans the scope of emotion. It is as entertaining as it is thought provoking.
The author, Monica Wood said she decided not to name the boy as he is a presence instead of a person and it felt odd to her to give him a name and a corporeal quality. This allows him to be every kid that is a little bit misunderstood or overlooked and allows the title to emphasize the uniqueness of the boy as Ona and his father process how the boy in their lives has changed them.
If you liked reading this, or if this book appeals to you, you will also enjoy Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson