Why isn’t this book EVERYWHERE?
Why isn’t this the first book you see when walking through the doors at Barnes & Noble? Or your local library? Why isn’t it appearing with blinking lights when you go online?
I’ll tell you why. Because this book — this swollen heart of love, patience, guilt, bereavement and redemption is as quiet and unassuming as its magical protagonist. It’s quietly waiting to be noticed, just like “the boy” was.
While this may be a quiet novel, please do not underestimate its ability to swallow you whole. This novel is one of the most powerful you’ll encounter this year. I promise.
Before I continue my swoon, thank you Audiobook Jukebox and Dreamscape Media for sending a copy of this timeless treasure. I’ve already sent it to another avid reader, and I’m just waiting for the phone call (perhaps a teary one), asking “why haven’t I heard of this before now??”
The One-In-A-Million Boy is about an unlikely and cherished friendship between a 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant by the name of Ona Vitkus, and an 11-year-old Boy Scout, whom you will come to know as “the boy.” The boy, through the good deeds of his troop, is assigned to help Ona with small tasks around the house, such as taking out the garbage and filling the bird feeders. What develops over time is a bond that neither of them take for granted. When the boy eventually asks for permission to interview Ona on tape for a school assignment, she finds herself slipping back and forth through her 104 years, and spilling her life into the boy’s recorder. He listens to her every word with rapt attention, and judges nothing. He is the perfect audience for this woman’s life. She, in turn, is the perfect audience for the boy’s obsession with the Guinness Book Of World Records, his twitching fingers, and his need to organize all facets of his life into subgroups of the number 10. Ona is beautiful. The boy is beautiful. Together, they’re everything that’s good in this world.
When the boy stops showing up at her house one day, she thinks perhaps that something else has distracted him from his duties. But when the boy’s father shows up to take over on the boy’s behalf, something is amiss. Ona’s heart breaks to learn that the boy has died suddenly from an underlying condition. His father, Quinn, has come in his stead. A ne’er do well who was absent for the bulk of the boy’s life, Quinn believes that if he helps Ona and comes to know the inside of her house, then perhaps he too can somehow form a bond with his child. Now (twice) divorced from the boy’s mother, Quinn slowly inserts himself into Ona’s life, and waits for some form of redemption. Needless to say, as Quinn attempts to better understand his son, he too develops a marvelous friendship with Ona.
I could go on about each person who enters Ona’s life in an attempt to make good the commitment that the boy made. I could talk about the boy’s mother, who is as lost as any soul could be after losing a beloved child. I could talk about the Scout leader, who loves the boy’s mother and asks for her hand in marriage. I could talk about the people of Ona’s past, who pop up every so often to shed light on Ona’s complicated life. What I would be summarizing for you is how many faces love truly has. How forgiveness is more powerful than anger. How acceptance is the most precious gift you can bestow on any human soul. How rooting for someone can propel them to heights they never imagined.
And this is all because of a young Scout who recited World Records and listed things in charming groups of 10. I miss him. I miss every character of this novel. Please do your heart a favor and get this book or audiobook. I highly recommend the audiobook if you can get a copy. Narrated by the gifted Chris Ciulla, the story is taken to a whole new level thanks to his inflections and tones. How you can convincingly go from voicing a 104-year old woman to an 11-year old boy is beyond me, but Chris Ciulla does so with grace and affection. He’s phenomenal.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has their quirks. When you love someone, you love the whole person. Read this to see if the boy finished his assignment. Read it to see if Quinn gets his act together. Most importantly, read it to see if Ona becomes the world record holder for Oldest Licensed Driver. Because that’s what the boy wanted.
5 stars for The One-In-A-Million Boy. Don’t forget your tissues.