Miss Ona Vitkus has - aside from three months in the summer of 1914 - lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.
The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never...
Only it's been two weeks now since he last visited, and she's starting to think he's not so different from all the rest.
Then the boy's father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son's good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life's ambition to complete . . .
Put simply, this book is outstanding and I loved it from start to finish. In fact, even though I have read another book since (which was also very good) my mind keeps going back to this wonderfully and eloquently constructed book.
I think I would be fair in saying that this is unlike any other book I have ever read as it is constructed in three very different ways. First, the boy in the book is a list maker so we see several of the lists he makes (anyone like me who is a natural born list maker will really get this part of the book.)
Secondly, some of the book is presented as an interview but we only see the answers and not the questions. I know that sounds a little strange but it really does work and helps us to understand more about Ona and the boy.
Thirdly, the rest of the book is in prose form and is completely engaging.
The characters are all very well rounded, from the 104 year old Ona to the eleven year old boy. It is the story of the unlikely friendship between these two individuals and the families in which they each belong. But it is about so much more - it's about love, friendship and grief and it made me laugh out loud and cry at the same time. It is deeply moving and I think it will stay with me for a long time.
This book is due to be published on 5th April 2016 here in the UK and I encourage you to pre-order this from your favourite bookseller as it will not disappoint. It is a fantastic read from Ms Wood and whose back canon I am now determined to read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys excellent writing.
Publisher: Headline Review
About the Author
Monica Wood is the author of four works of fiction, most recently Any Bitter Thing, which spent 21 weeks on the American Booksellers Association extended bestseller list and was named a Book Sense Top Ten pick. Her other fiction includes Ernie’s Ark and My Only Story, a finalist for the Kate Chopin Award.