Review Blog

May 09 2016

The one in a million boy by Monica Wood

cover image

Headline, 2016. ISBN 9781472228369
An amusing and warm friendship develops between an eleven year old boy scout and Miss Vitkus, a one hundred and four year old lady, when he volunteers for yard work to earn a badge for service. The lad's obsession with Guinness World records, his quirky outlook and impeccable manners appeal to the woman who has no time for the shallow time wasting of other well - wishers in her mature years.
The voice of the boy is never heard despite his interviews with the woman about her long life experience which are recorded in chapters for a school project. Clever authorship reveals the disarmingly honest questions he asks by the style of the responses which the old lady voices with equal honesty and candour.
For reasons revealed early in the book, Quinn, the lad's father presents himself to Miss Vitkus to continue the yard work and odd jobs on the boy's behalf until the end of the agreed period. The boy's parents have been married and separated and Quinn has spent so much time away from his family whilst touring in music bands that he has become estranged from his son.
Guinness World records are important and recurring in the narrative. By their nature they are superlative, yet the categories include the mundane, the pointless and the ridiculous. One old lady's relatively unremarkable life is shown to have had highs and lows of joy and suffering (leading to hard earned wisdom) which are as meaningful to her as that experienced by the most famous or accomplished individual. Miss Vitkus' trust and friendship must be earned and Quinn works hard in many senses to build a relationship with her, partly to establish an emotional connection with his son who is only ever referred to in the text as 'the boy'.
Regret, particularly due to inaction rather than mistakes presents often in this story and characters in various situations are revealed to agonise over whether failures may be amended and disasters salvaged. Everyday decent people are the characters playing out their lives in this book and I liked that the author refrained from including unrealistic or uncommon elements which would have detracted from readily identifiable normal life.
Whilst I did not find the tale particularly moving or captivating, I suspect that it may be deeply meaningful to many.
Rob Welsh

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