The One-In-A-Million Boy

by Monica Wood

Paperback, 2017




Mariner Books (2017), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages


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 one of his son's unfinished Boy Scout badges. For seven Saturdays, Quinn does yard work for Ona Vitkus, the spry 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. 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.


(221 ratings; 4.2)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Ona Vitkus is 104 years old and lives alone in a house that belonged to her son. A local scout troop provides a continuous stream of 11-year-old boys to do basic chores in her house and yard. One day, a grown man appears -- the father of a scout taking over his son's duties after he suddenly and
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inexplicably dies. Quinn, still in the throes of grief, sets out to fulfill his the boy's service commitment. What follows is a multi-threaded tale of love, marriage, friendship, aging, and grief. Ona's life story is revealed slowly, through tape-recorded interviews made by the boy, and sometimes by her revelations to Quinn.The reader quickly becomes invested in Quinn's relationship with his former wife, Bella, and Quinn's pursuit of a career as a music performer, against the odds. The nameless boy is a constant presence, not only because of the obvious grief but also his dogged pursuit of a Guinness World Record for Ona.

This novel's characters were so real to me, and the story tugged at my emotions in a realistic (not sappy) way. The spirit of the boy seemed to pervade everyone and the ending was very satisfying. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member angiestahl
This book is a really lovely piece of writing, if there's any critique to be made, it may be a bit overlong. However, it's well worth your reading time.

The story revolves around the impact an 11yo boy scout has on several adults and how each individual's love for that child connects them to each
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other. When the story begins, the boy has recently died (that's not a spoiler) and the book deals with the grieving of the adults who love him, how they come to love (or at least have more empathy for) each other because of loving him and how the boy's love inspires each of them to heal or grow beyond their brokenness.

It's a different sort of love story that's uplifting without being saccharine and hopeful without being maudlin. Recommended, highly.
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LibraryThing member sleahey
This beautifully crafted novel centers around the friendship between a 104 year old woman, Ona, and the young boy scout who is assigned to do good deeds for her for several weeks. After the boy's sudden tragic death, his father Quinn assumes responsibilities to help out instead. Because of his
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emotional and physical absence as a father, Quinn tries to make penance, both with Ona and with his twice-ex-wife. One of the boy's fixations was Guinness World Records, and since he and Ona had determined that she would break a record as the oldest licensed driver, Quinn and Bella set out to make that happen. Wood's writing is beautifully simple and lyrical, and the characters she portrays are wonderfully quirky, endearing, and complex.
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LibraryThing member Carlathelibrarian
I am not sure what I was expecting when I started to read this book, but what I received while reading it was a lot of emotional tugs, warm feelings and a positive feeling about humanity.

Ona Vitkus is a 104 years old Lithuanian immigrant. She has been selected by the local Boy Scout troop to
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receive assistance to earn a merit badge. She has had other boys come to help her out, but when this boy arrives, there is something different about him. She lets him into her life due to his incessant curiosity, his warmth, his honest caring and his obsession with the Guinness World Records. He is sure that Ona can achieve a world record and he is going to do everything in his power to help her do just that. Not only do they try to figure out which record she will try to get, but the boy has to interview an older person for a school project and he picks Ona. There are a series of interviews scattered throughout the book. She tells him things that she has not told anyone, her secrets, that she does not want him to reveal to others.

But when one weekend when the boy doesn't show up, and his father Quinn, a hard-luck musician who has never really connected with his son, appears in his place. Ona feels hurt and disappointed that he abandoned their relationship and their quest but she finds out that he did not abandon her, but died suddenly and Quinn is trying to take up the responsibility of his son.

I do not want to spoil the book for anyone so I will stop here. The story is a wonderful exploration of relationships, both familial and chosen. It will make you smile and it will make you sad. This book explores those relationships, the feelings that go with them, the decisions we make and the decisions that are forced upon us.

Ona and Quinn are remarkable characters with secrets, desires and complex emotions. Even though the boy, who is not named and is not physically present in the whole book, his presence in the lives of the characters changes them forever. This is a wonderful book that I am surprised has not received any reviews or accolades for 2016. A great read and I recommend it to anyone who likes to read about life.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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LibraryThing member Alphawoman
Best book I've read in some time. Beautifully written. Full of love and wisdom, forgiveness, redemption and new beginnings. A wonderful book for any age group.

I just loved it.

Only reason I did not give it five stars is it had to end.
LibraryThing member DebbieMcCauley
104-year-old Ona has finally been sent a scout that she likes. The 11-year-old World Records obsessed boy helps out every Saturday morning with things like by filling her bird feeders, tidying the garden shed and listening to Ona's stories about her long and eventful life. But when one Saturday the
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boy doesn't turn up, Ona thinks he is just like all the rest who have let her down. That is, until his father, musician Quinn, arrives instead to complete his son's obligations. The distraught mother also turns up. A poignant story about a life cut short, a life of regrets, and a long lived life. Well told.
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LibraryThing member creighley
104 year Ona has Ben sent an 11 year old boy to tend to some of her tasks around her home. As he tends to her bird feeders and tidies her shed, she tells him about her life. Remarkable story!
LibraryThing member dawnlovesbooks
An 11 year old boyscout is assigned to help a 104 old woman around her house. Ona is used to being on her own and wasn't expecting to form a new friendship at her age. The young boy really brought Ona to life. He started recording the story of her life for a homework assignment and Ona brought up
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things she hadn't thought of in years. "It had been a long time, if ever, since another human being betrayed so intense an interest in the ordinary facts of her life."

The young boy dies unexpectedly and in steps his father, Quinn to complete his boy scout assignment with Ona. Quinn had not been the best father to his son. He saw him twice a month for dinner and it was always awkward. Quinn forges a friendship with Ona that allows him to get to know the son he never really understood. Ona and Quinn build a friendship that benefited them both. Ona felt the presence of Quinn's son and her own lost son through Quinn's visit. Ona thought Quinn was a gentleman and it make him want to be one. Ona helped Quinn to restore his sense of duty and willingness and hope for the future. "He thought himself finished with hope, but here it was again that urgent, nearly spiritual ache-an open wound looking for balm." By the end of the novel, Quinn says, "He had not loved his son enough. This knowledge lived like a maliginancy in his heart." "I did fall in love with my son, but not until after he was gone."
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LibraryThing member closefriend
A delightful, heart-warming book! Young Scout is assigned to help a 104 year old woman 2 hours per Saturday for 7 weeks to get a community service badge. They bond in a most wondrous way, much happens (including the boy doing a ten part oral history or the woman into his micro-sized recorder). I
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loved this book, and will add it to the every 2 years rotation rereading of unforgettable books - the other 2 so far are The Sounds of a Wild Snail Eating and Three Bags Full. Happy-making books, all three of them, at least for me.
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LibraryThing member gogglemiss
This had so many golden moments in it, and as I was given a proof copy, I may read it again, (if I have time!!) to really appreciate it.
Beautiful story.
LibraryThing member cwhisenant11
The One-in-a-Million Boy
By Monica Wood
Narrated By Chris Ciulla
Published 2016 by Dreamscape Media, LLC
10 hours and 33 minutes

I received a free audio copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing that really stood out to me as I was listening is that the
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One-in-a-Million boy is never named. When I listen to an audiobook as opposed to reading, I pay special attention to the names of the characters so that there is some order in my mind while listening. In the entire 10 hours and 33 minutes, he is only ever referred to as “the boy”. I’m sure the author had her reasons for this but it felt impersonal and cold—especially from the grieving parents.

As a whole, the story was both heartwarming and entertaining but I had difficulty with the interviews. Periodically throughout the book, we get to hear the boy’s taped interview of Ona for his school project. Instead of being a typical question and answer type of interview, this interview was essentially a one-sided conversation with Ona where the listener had to infer what the question was by how she answered. I found this style to be very annoying, awkward and distracting. Again, I’m sure the author had her reasons but the absence of the boy in the taped interaction felt impersonal and cold.

The narrator, Chris Ciulla, really brought Ona’s character to life. His pronunciation of the Lithuanian words was impressive and the slight accent he used with Ona was endearing. He also performed the character of the “boy” in a way that revealed the enthusiastic and curious nature that made him so special. All of the other characters, however, sounded essentially the same.
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LibraryThing member sbenne3
No doubt it was beautifully written . . . i just got a little bored. i was engaged in the beginning but had a hard time in the middle. If you enjoy character development with some frustrating characters, you will enjoy this book.
LibraryThing member nyiper
This was such a special book and such a beautifully told story with wonderful characters---how can you not love Ona and Quinn---the two who play the larger parts in this unexpectedly, at least to me, excellent book. I, too, would like to read it again because what happens is more than I could
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probably appreciate fully that first time through.
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LibraryThing member pennykaplan
A young boy, odd and OCD, and a 104 year old woman form a friendship after he is assigned as a Boy Scout to help around her house. Well done Alternating points of view create an intriguing and interesting story.
LibraryThing member Loried
Loved this quirky book with an unusual premise. Could have been maudlin or predictable, but it was a great handling of a unique scenario with a collection of wonderful characters. I highly recommend the book.
LibraryThing member jimnicol
I loved Monica Wood's The One In A Million Boy. Sweet, tragic and ultimately so life-affirming. And so beautifully wrought in such a seamless, below-the-surface way. A wonderful writer at the top of her game.
LibraryThing member KatyBee
Really liked this book - very moving story and great characters. Keep the tissues handy. I think this is one of the finest depictions of old age that I've read in a very long time.
LibraryThing member kmajort
I didn't know what to expect - was worried when I read the synopsis.... Will not give away anything critical. Excellent characters, I really cared about most of them.
The ending was not predictable.
Just trust me, and read it!
LibraryThing member bostonterrio
Liked it better than I imagined.
LibraryThing member GirlWellRead
A special thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Monica Wood has penned a heartfelt, endearing story of friendship between a young boy, and a 104-year-old lady that ripples out to the boys parents. They share an affinity for world records, and also share in loss.

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Vitkus, meets a young boy when he is assigned to her property to complete his yard work badge for Boy Scouts. The boy's father, Quinn, comes to finish his son's good dead, and to try to make up for his shortcomings as a father and in doing so, comes to understand his son. Ona and Quinn form an unlikely pairing. They embark on carrying out the boy's wish to make Ona the world's oldest driver.

There are a few unnecessary characters and plot threads, but all-in-all a charming read.
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LibraryThing member Deelightful
I received this book from Bookbrowse in order to participate in their on-line discussion. I found this to be a charming story about friendship and family.
LibraryThing member purplequeennl
I read this book for my book club, it wasn't a genre or topic I would have normally chosen to read, and so I hadn't expected to like it - but I did. Once I started reading, I was gripped and needed to know more. It has depth and characters that connect, both with each other and the reader, in an
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emotional way.

I thought it would be a story about a 104 year old ladies life, but it was so much more than that: it was about the boy who awoke her life spirit again; about the father who still loved his ex-wife, and who did not quite manage to connect with his son while he was alive; about a mother's devastation about losing her son, and her history with his father and desire to return to herself.

I found it awkward at the beginning, because initially the reader is not told why the boy was not visiting the old lady, and the old lady was also not informed by the father. It had a stilted beginning, but once past it, it offer a lot.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
This one fell a bit short of my expectations. I think my main problem was that the story puts the least interesting character at the forefront. There’s a Lithuanian immigrant, an eccentric young boy obsessed with world records, and a grieving mother, but instead, we focus on a mediocre musician
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who has a good heart but is still a neglectful father. I just felt like every other character had a more interesting story and was disappointed each time we returned to Quinn‘s narrative.
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LibraryThing member LukeS
This novel traces the posthumous influence of an 11 year-old boy on a sympathetic set of adults, and traces the effects of his life and death to self-discovery, love, responsibility, and record-setting longevity. It’s a unique, gratifying read, written with intelligence, wisdom, and kindness. The
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author’s kindness extends to her characters as well as her readers: the love the characters feel for each other reaches the surface in unusual ways. And Monica Wood’s readers feel her kindness through the realistic strivings and the partial and sometimes surprising success they meet with. This is superb.

A shy, unaccomplished 11 year-old Boy Scout visits 104 year-old Ona to assist with chores and record her history, as part of an exercise to earn a merit badge. Ona is Lithuanian and sharp as a tack. She’s lived in the U.S. since 1913, was married to a dull, unloving man for nearly three decades, but has nevertheless lived an interesting life. After the boy’s passing, his father Quinn takes over. First he takes on the chores, and eventually he fills a void which the youngster’s passing has created.

Quinn is in many ways the focus of the story. He performs chores around the house for Ona scrupulously at first, before their relationship gels into a friendship. Quinn’s marriage has fractured - twice - but Ona observes Quinn’s continuing devotion to his ex-wife Belle. She finds she admires Quinn’s perseverance and kindness, and allows him to pursue her plan to re-qualify for her driver’s license. This license is a wonderful trope by Wood, a hard encapsulation of Ona’s determined will to continue to function normally despite her age.

“The One-in-a-Million Boy” has such a big heart: it has space for everyone’s ambitions, everyone’s failings, everyone’s redemption, everyone’s love. I recommend this book as heartily as I have before for Wood, one of my favorites. “My Only Story” is superb, “Any Bitter Thing” gratifying and balanced, but “The One-in-a-Million Boy” takes the cake. A multiple award winner, and my new favorite among Wood’s oeuvre, be sure to take this one up!
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LibraryThing member kglattstein
Sweet story of a life well lead, no regrets, some regrets, friendship and love.


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Original publication date


Physical description

336 p.; 8 inches


0544947215 / 9780544947214
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