Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The One-In-A-Million-Boy - Monica Wood

Monica Wood (author of We Were the Kennedys) dragged me straight in from the first page, and kept me reading until I put it down with a sigh of pleasure at the end. The premise of this book is that a father, estranged from his ex-wife and son, is going to finish up some odd jobs that his son couldn't. That's it. The characters are what make this a delight. The one in a million boy, a scout who on discovering how old Ona Vitkus is (104 and counting) realises that he may be able to get her into the Guinness Book of Records for something or other; Ona herself, who has a very interesting story to tell, and does so, on a tape recorder that the boy produces. Quinn, the boy's father, a session musician and "fill in" for groups, always dreaming of the bigtime; Belle, his twice ex-wife and father of the boy; and other, not quite so rounded but essential characters which pop up from time to time. This is really Quinn and Belle's story - although it is Ona that tells hers. I loved the chapters with Ona's voice on the tape, the recognition that old age does not come by itself (there is a passage at the beginning where Ona explains to the boy that the highest notes of bird songs are lost to her now, and a very moving couple of lines right at the end where the boy will ask his father to enable her to hear those songs). This was such a wonderful read, easy to say "just one more chapter" every time I stopped. Told in a quirky style which I loved, I hope that as many readers as possible will get to know and remember Ona and the others. I am certainly recommending it to the many readers I come across. Oh, and don't forget to read the last list at the end.