The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood – review

Mourning parents embark on a road trip with an unlikely friend of their dead son in Monica Wood’s uplifting novel

Ona Vitkus is 104 years old. Lithuanian by birth, she has spent most of her life in the United States. Her encounter with an unnamed 11-year-old boy, who has died before the novel’s opening page, restores the thread between Ona and her past. The boy’s father subsequently befriends Ona, and along with his ex-wife they embark on an eventful road trip in a bid to fulfil the boy’s dream: for Ona to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

There are themes here of geographical and emotional dislocation, of loss and mourning, of reparation and redemption. Wood’s exquisitely crafted prose radiates warmth, perception and insight, and her quartet of primary characters are simultaneously sympathetic and flawed. “Hope is a perilous thing,” says one character. And yet it is testament to Wood’s empathetic storytelling that a novel replete with grief is nonetheless so heartwarming, funny and uplifting.

The One in a Million Boy is published by Headline (£12.99). Click here to order it for £10.39


Hannah Beckerman

The GuardianTramp

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