The unnamed boy, star in this story, is one of the most lovable characters in recent memory. From the beginning you know the boy is dead. But, don’t let that stop you from reading The One-In-A-Million Boy, by Monica Wood.
104 year old, Ona, a Lithuanian immigrant, has developed a strong relationship with the boy since his Scout Leader brought him around to help her with her household chores. He’s an unusual young child who has been very reliable with his visits to Ona and their mutual affection has grown in a short period of time. He’s drawn Ona into his fascination with the Guinness Book of World Records and motivates her in an attempt to become the oldest person in the world, supplying her with exercise and diet tips. She regales him with stories of running away from home at a young age, shares her magic tricks and encourages and celebrates his individuality in an attempt to help him increase his self esteem and confidence levels. They both become comfortable enough to share buried secrets with each other.
One afternoon, after their relationship begins to blossom, the boy fails to appear. Quinn Porter comes around instead. He happens to be the boy’s deadbeat musician dad who has a long history of supplying financial rather than emotional support to his son and ex wife and comes and goes in and out of their lives since he just can’t make any long term personal commitments. When Ona learns the boy has died she is grief stricken and Quinn realizes that the affection Ona had for the boy was very real and strong. Quinn gets caught in the relationship between Ona and the boy and Ona and himself. He’s uncomfortable with these emotions, as uncomfortable as he has been with his son over the years. But, the boy’s influence lives on as he continues to affect his mother, father and Ona in different ways and helps each of them find some closure and resolution in their lives.
Be prepared to laugh and cry as the characters emotions and vulnerabilities are peeled away. Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson has another young protagonist who will wrap you around his finger. These are both stellar additions to any book club selection list.