“They take up room. So much room. I was married to Howard for twenty-eight years and yet he made only a piddling dent in my memory. A little nick. But certain others, they move in and make themselves at home and start flapping their arms in the story you make of your life. They have wing span.”
The story of Ona, Quinn, Belle and the boy is one of family, love, and loss. Ona is a vivacious 104-year-old woman who has a quick wit and a subtle loneliness. Quinn is a down-trodden, misguided musician with a good heart. Belle is a grieving mother just looking for someone to love and care for after the loss of her son. The boy is endearing, quirky and boarderline neurotic. His presence in the novel is brief and mostly implied through his recorded conversations with Ona but it touches the readers heart enough to empathize with the loss. Posthumously he works to mend the broken pieces of each person- Belle learns to value herself and love again, Quinn learn to value more than his music and Ona learns who she once was, who she is and to value true friendship. The relationship between Ona and the boy is the thread the carries the story along. Brought together by a Boy Scout good deed, Ona and the boy embark and a journey to gain entrance into The Guiness Book of World Records, a dream which nearly goes unfullfilled after the death of the boy. As part of this quest the boy decides to record interviews with Ona where we learn about her storied past and she learns about herself,
“Because a lot of people think I’m a piece of statuary with no past, that’s why. And here you are in my kitchen, reminding me that I’m me.”
The boy helps Quinn to understand how to care for others and what their trouble relationship meant.
“He kept forgetting essential facts about his own son: the boy had been an enthusiast, this was true. His laughter erupted out of nowhere, startling as a dog in the night; he had his delights well sheathed and brandished them at unexpected moments. Here and gone, here and gone. Unlike Belle, unlike Amy, unlike anyone with a soft spot for the boy, Quinn found this card trick of an inner life unsettling, even disorienting. A memory of the boy’s recitations attacked him unannounced; the wiry voice; the lists; the counting; the motionless face and twitchy fingers. He’d been uneasy around the boy, trouble by the world in which he dwelled.”
Through these pensive moments Quinn grows to understand and accept his shortcomings
“He had not loved his son enough. The knowledge lived like a malignancy on his heart. He wanted to believe that the boy, in a future now lost and impossible, would have forgiven him, would have taken their blundering history and found its logic and shaped it into items on a list.”
A truly heartwarming story, The One-in-a-Million Boy shows that it is never too late to change, to be a better person, or to love a little more.
A big thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this story.
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