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Read an Excerpt from Any Bitter Thing

Monica Wood     Monica Wood

SCROLL DOWN FOR BOOK-GROUP QUESTIONS

U.S. PUBLICATION: APRIL 5, 2016

FROM HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT

Also appearing in 18 and 19 foreign editions, including the UK (including Australia, South Africa, India, and others), Greece, France, Italy, Poland, Germany, Brazil, Holland, South Korea, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Lithuania, Serbia, Croatia, Israel, China, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. 

A "FAVORITE OF THE YEAR" from Bookreporter: "...a feat of staggering wonder."

Shortlist finalist for BOOK OF THE YEAR, THE WORLD Magazine: 

The One-in-a-Million Boy revolves around a friendship between a 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant woman and an 11-year-old Boy Scout obsessed with Guinness world records. For seven Saturdays, the boy has arrived promptly to do Ona Vitkus's yard chores, record her life story for a fifth-grade school project, and talk her into gunning for the record of Oldest Licensed Driver. 

On page two, the reader discovers that the boy has recently died. In his place, on the tenth Saturday, the boy's father reluctantly shows up to complete his son's good deed. A professional guitar player, Quinn was an absent father who was a little afraid of his sweet, strange son. Through Quinn's own friendship with Ona, the boy returns to life in ways that offer unexpected detours to people who believed they were through with second chances.

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For excerpts, book trailers, video, see the UK website for now: 

http://www.oneinamillionboy.com/index.html

Interview from Radio Gorgeous in the UK:  https://audioboom.com/boos/4326651-monica-wood-author-the-one-in-a-million-boy-with-donna-freed-on-radio-gorgeous

REVIEWS:

"This is a book of heartbreaking beauty. That an 11-year-old boy could bring together so many people of starkly contrasting interests is, in itself, amazing. But that he could bring them together in such a way as to form deep, lasting bonds is truly remarkable. Monica Wood has accomplished a feat of staggering wonder with The One-in-a-Million Boy.   BOOKREPORTER

"The book expands to cover an enormous amount of emotional ground, as Wood treats a large cast of fundamentally decent but struggling characters with a winning mix of sharpness and sympathy...Wood is able to convey the deepest of emotions in a few quietly devastating sentences."  READER'S DIGEST, UK

"Intricately woven ... The One-in-a-Million Boy is provocative, and it evokes Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See for its twin story lines and the theme of endless searching for an anchor point. The ending is a deeply affecting surprise. MAINE SUNDAY TELEGRAM, US

"This is a bittersweet page-turner that celebrates the everyday soul." SUNDAY TIMES, South Africa

'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

"BOOK WARS: The One-in-a-Million Boy wins it. Monica Wood's heartwarming story about a friendship that bridges the generations manages to edge it this week, with its clever, intricate plot, beautifully sketched characters, and life-affirming message of self-discovery....Wood reveals joyousness in the confounding complexity of humanity." STYLIST magazine, UK

"This is a beguiling, heartwrenching and funny book about families, and how they come undone and are re-made in unexpected ways. In this case, there's ornery Miss Ona Vitkus, 104, sharp as a tack and hiding a world of secrets; the sweet, odd little boy of the title, with his record-breaking obsessions; and Quinn, the befuddled father who can't do right for doing wrong. Absolutely gorgeous." --PSYCHOLOGIES Magazine, UK

"A lovely, quirky novel about misfits across the generations...There is humour as well as hope." --DAILY MAIL, UK

"A whimsical and bittersweet novel about finding friendship in the most unlikely places." GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

"A stunner." HEAT Magazine, UK

"Wood dishes out tragedy and charm in equal measure with an intergenerational friendship that retains its beauty despite death. Although rarely seen directly, the titular boy hovers at the edges of every scene, binding Quinn and Belle whether they like it or not, drawing Ona's secrets from her lips. Readers won't be able to resist falling for Ona, whose many years and cultivated cynicism hide a great but vulnerable heart. Wood interweaves the lives of her broken heroes until they cannot disentangle from one another, then gives each the means to become, if not fully healed, at least whole. Although most readers will find tissues often necessary while navigating the layers of this story, the conclusion will leave them smiling through their tears." --SHELF AWARENESS, USA

"One of the most elegant, satisfying endings I’ve ever read. An extraordinary book." -- Allison Hill, CEO, Vroman's Books, Pasadena, California, USA

"Curl up and enjoy [this]...bewitching novel." WOMAN + HOME, UK

"In The One-in-a-Million Boy, Monica Wood tells a magical, beautifully written story about the healing power of friendship, music, and unexpected, generation-spanning connections. As emotionally resonant as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this novel hums with energy, warmth, wisdom, humor, and soul." -- Christina Baker Kline, author of the international bestseller Orphan Train

"A simultaneously sad and joyous story of a unique 11-year-old boy and the legacy he leaves behind. Wood's portrait of a fractured, grieving family is peopled by endearing characters." -- Booklist, USA

"[A] bittersweet new novel ... resulting in a devastating story." -- Publishers Weekly, USA

‘...life-affirming, touching and beautifully written.’
- Heat magazine, UK

An exceptionally clever piece of storytelling which gently leads the readers through a moving story with an ending that isn’t predictable, but leaves you feeling satisfied and content. Very strong writing with a central character that I’d love to meet and make a friend!’
- Annie Ashworth, Director, The Stratford Literary Festival, UK

‘Wise, witty and incredibly moving…..magical and life-affirming. I was utterly charmed.’
Polly Samson, UK

‘I loved it! The boy is one of my favourite literary characters ever! I thought it was a gem of a novel, heart breaking and heart-warming. Beautifully written, with characters that you want to keep by your side. Such a perfect book for lovers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Universe Versus Alex Woods.’
- Adele Parks, UK

‘A jewel of a novel. Themes of grief, love, family and old age come together to form a novel that sits on that magical boundary between literary and commercial fiction, a book that’s both easy to read and deeply profound as it swings between light humour and wrenching sadness. This engaging and heartfelt novel is set to be one of the biggest hits of 2016.
- The Media Eye, Rising Stars, UK

Heartbreaking and brilliant….if you loved Elizabeth Is Missing or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry then I am sure you’ll enjoy this. I’d be surprised if it’s not a hit in 2016.’
- Sheila O’Reilly, Dulwich Books, UK

‘A big, warm, winning treat of a novel, wholly believable but touched with magic. Sharply observed, deftly constructed and pithily told, this is a story about facing up to the losses of the past and discovering that the most unexpected of allies can help old dreams come true.’
- Alison Mercer, author of After I Left You. UK

‘I loved it! Ona is such a brilliant heroine and Quinn is such a surprising hero.
And, oh - that ending... Such a life-affirming read - I just love the way Monica’
story brings out the best in people.’
- Hannah Beckerman, Author and Journalist

‘A book that you start reading at full tilt; it’s so beguiling and sad and funny that you can’t stop speeding through. And then you realize that there aren’t that many pages left and that puts a halt to your gallop, so you slow right down to eke out the pleasure. I absolutely loved it.’
- Eithne Farry, The Simple Things

Why aren’t there more characters in literature like the 104-year-old Ona, Monica Wood’s feisty heroine, a lady you’d be happy to spend time with from a wise and touching book...’
- Frances Gertler, Head of Content, Foyles.co.uk

"At the heart of [The One-in-a-Million Boy] is the very idea of human connection and its nature — all the joy, suffering and hope it comes with, and [the novel] reiterates the possibility of finding these connections in the oddest and least expected places." THE HINDU, India

 

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BOOK GROUP 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?