Wood never names the 11-year-old boy at the center of her bittersweet new novel; he is referred to as “the boy” from the start. This idiosyncratic and earnest list-making boy without friends dies as strangely—“the first symptom is usually death”—as he lived. His father, an itinerant guitarist named Quinn, decides to finish earning the child’s Boy Scouts badge by doing yard work for the 104-year-old Ona Vitkus. This penance for being an absentee father turns into something even greater as he and his grief-stricken twice-ex-wife take up the boy’s hope for Ona to set a world record as the oldest licensed driver. The author (Any Bitter Thing) reveals the prickly old woman’s life story, beginning in Lithuania, through the boy’s 10-part recorded interview with her; Ona slowly comes to realize what a gift his questions were, while the reader gains understanding into her character. Wood maintains the boy’s unknowability by allowing just one (heartrending) scene from his point of view, which walks a thin line between sweet and saccharine, resulting in a devastating story. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/22/2016 Release date: 04/05/2016 Genre: Fiction
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