A book for those that love quirky characters and emotional plots- The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One-in-a-Million Boy

By Monica Wood


Critical Praise:


'This is a novel about many things: isolation, community, music, language and friendship. Wood's prose sparkles with lyrical descriptions and sharp observations about people and their motivations. But the over-arching theme running through it all concerns second chances. Even when you're older than a century, life still has the capacity to surprise you.' THE HERALD SCOTLAND, UK

"If you’re looking for a book that entertains and is thought-provoking at the same time, The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood has that wrapped up in a bright red package. Themes of ageing, regret, love and loss, ambition and unexplored dreams abound in the beautifully written The One-in-a-Million Boy. ... I loved this book." THE BLURB MAGAZINE, Australia

"A novel about a friendship between a 104-year-old woman and a lonely boy obsessed with world records sounds as if it could be somewhat sentimental, but this story remains razor sharp while packing a heart wrenchingly powerful emotional punch. It has big themes – family, bereavement and facing up to mortality – but they are addressed with a light touch, and a beautifully judged acidic wit. As Ona decides to exploit her great age to secure herself a place in the history books with the help of her young assistant, a tragedy means unlikely bonds are forged. Beautifully written, cleverly constructed, at times hilariously funny and ultimately deeply affecting – this should be a smash." SUNDAY MIRROR, UK

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*Discussion Questions



1. In the opening pages, we discover that the boy of the title has died. And yet, he is a catalyst for everything that happens afterward. How did you perceive the boy's role in the story--as an absence? A presence? A sort of invisible stage manager? Did you sometimes forget that he was no longer alive?

2. For the first time in her life, Ona gives away her secrets—to a child. What is it about the boy that Ona instinctively trusts?

3. Ona observes, "People like Quinn, always running from themselves, loved the road." What does she mean by this? Is Quinn the only character "on the run" here?

4. "You reveal a character in two ways," the author has said. "One, how the character views the world. Two, how the world views the character." Does this insight apply to the characters here? Quinn, for example, is rightly regretful for his fatherly failings, and yet the boys in Resurrection Lane trust and rely on him completely. How do varying perceptions combine to make fictional characters feel real?

5. Discuss the various friendships in the book: Ona and the boy; Ona and Quinn; Quinn and Belle; Ona and Louise. What about Quinn's friendship with his bandmates in The Benders? Or with Sylvie? To what degree are all these friendships necessary to the people involved?

6. "I have deficiencies," the boy tells Ona. Does he? The author has said that she created the boy before the word "autism" or "Asperger's" entered the American lexicon. "He's just who he is," Belle says, bristling against labels. Is Belle right? Does it matter?

7. When Belle says, "I figured you must have worked," Ona is thrilled to have been recognized "as the employable type." Why is her career as a "professional secretary" such a badge of honor for Ona?

8. The author has said, "In my novels I assemble families from broken parts." Is that true in this novel? Is friendship sometimes more powerful than family ties?

9. Quinn is "uneasy around the boy, troubled by the world in which he dwelled." Why do you think that is the case?

10. The author has said, "If a writer can't make you like a character, she must at least make you understand him." Despite Quinn's flaws, do you like him? If not, did you understand why he behaves the way he does?

11. When Ona explains the Guinness World Records to Belle and Quinn, she observes: "How tranquilizing it was to arm yourself with information, how consoling to unpack the facts and then plant them like fence pickets, building a sturdy pen in which you stood alone, cosseted against human fallibility." Is this why the boy made lists? Is there a calming aspect to list-making that appeals to a certain type of person?

12. Throughout the book Quinn makes several references to his mother, who died young. How does this early loss contribute to Quinn's growing affection for Ona?

13. At 104, Ona is young compared to the world's oldest citizens. This is a surprise to both her and the boy. Was it a surprise to you? Did meeting Ona change your assumptions about extreme old age?

14. Before meeting the boy, "Ona had believed herself through with friendship." How does old age change Ona's ideas about friendship? Did reading the novel cause you to examine your own friendships?

15. Quinn refers to Belle, with whom he has a fraught relationship, as his "truest friend." What does he mean by this? Can we be friends with those whom we have hurt? Do you find echoes of Quinn and Belle in the friendship between Ona and Louise?

16. The novel contains a large cast of major and minor characters. Who makes the most significant journey? Is there more than one way to identify "the main character"? To whom does this story ultimately belong?

17. The boys in Resurrection Lane have an unshakeable faith in the Lord. What kind of faith grounds the other char acters?

18. Ona tells Quinn that the boy turned her from a "striver" to a "dreamer." Who are the strivers in this book? Who are the dreamers? Can you divide your own friends and family members in the same way?

19. After Ona tells the boy about seeing a thousand hummingbirds on a roadside, she adds: "This is the sort of thing Louise invited into my life." Was Louise a friend or an opportunist? What do you think was the nature of Ona's love for Louise?

20. The One-in-a-Million Boy has sold in over a dozen countries, from Brazil to South Korea. What, if anything, about this American story strikes you as transcending culture?

Ane more, just for fun: The Guinness World Records plays a role in the book. If you were to set a record, what would it be?

(Discussion Questions by Author)


Book Summary
The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don't they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who's been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she's confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.

One Saturday, the boy doesn't show up. Ona starts to think he's not so special after all, but then his father arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son's good deed. The boy's mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that the world can surprise us at any age, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find ourselves again.

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