In some hands, this could be the material for a Hollywood weepie, but Wood is able to convey the deepest of feelings in a few quietly devastating sentences. James Walton reviews a novel with a surprisingly big heart. 

The One in a Million Boy

The boy of the title—otherwise unnamed—is already dead when Monica Wood’s warm and touching novel begins. As a socially awkward, possibly autistic boy scout, he’d been doing weekly chores for 104-year-old Ona Vitkus, and the two had struck up a close friendship.

Then, after his sudden death from an undetected heart condition, his divorced father Quinn comes to do Ona’s chores instead and is equally beguiled.

From there, the book expands to cover an enormous amount of emotional ground, as Wood treats a large cast of fundamentally decent but often struggling characters with a winning mix of sharpness and sympathy.

Despite the indomitable Ona’s obvious appeal, it’s the jobbing musician Quinn who steals the show, as he comes to realise (too late of course) how remarkable the son he neglected had been.

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