After finishing The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood, I am an emotional wreck. Within the first chapter of the book, we learn the nameless, “one-in-a-million” boy has died and we are left with the aftermath of this tragedy. One interesting element of this novel is the absence/presence of “the boy.” From the very first chapter, we know that he is gone, and yet he permeates everything. I absolutely love the way Wood never lets us hear from the boy. We are only left with the reactions to him. While studying art in college, one technique I learned was to only draw empty space and let the un-drawn space on the paper create the image. Wood is taking a similar approach to building everything but the main character to draw us into him.
The boy left behind three essential characters we follow throughout the novel: his parents, and an elderly neighborhood woman. Each is uniquely complicated, deeply flawed, and tragic in their own way. Quinn, the boy’s father, is selfish, immature, and filled with regret. Belle is a grieving mother, riddled with guilt, frustrated by her (now twice-over) ex-husband. Ona is an extremely lonely, elderly woman, and the main medium through which we learn about the boy through a series of one-sided interviews.
Ona was my favorite character – she’s the type of character who teaches you something. Whether that be the difference between “persuading” and “convincing,” or recognizing the people who come into your life, even for a short time, and leave a lasting impact. She’s filled with understated wisdom, a life of hard lessons shared with the benefit of retrospect.
If you liked A Man Called Ove and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I would suggest picking this one up. Quinn reminds me of Ove and the boy reminds me Oskar. It’s pretty sad, but it’s also clever, funny, and heartwarming.
I won’t talk about it, but I LOVE the ending. It’s just perfect.
Here’s an interview with author Monica Wood: