Monica Wood’s new novel is wonderful as well as compelling, no surprise from this amazing Maine author. I was a fan of her first four novels when I first met her while birding in Evergreen Cemetery in Portland. After introducing myself, Monica told me she was working on a new book, which excited me.
But then she said it was an autobiography about growing up in Mexico, Maine when the Rumford paper mill dominated the region and economy. I didn’t say anything, but that disappointed me. I wanted a new novel!
And then I got her autobiography, When We Were The Kennedys, and it was one of the best I have ever read. I was so impressed with the book that I included a column I wrote about it in my own book, A Life Lived Outdoors, published in March of 2014 by Islandport Press.
This lady is talented! And to prove it, her next project was a play, Papermaker, the best play Linda and I ever saw at Portland Stage. Papermaker is sensational, thought-provoking, insightful, something you will never forget. It sold out every single night. And I just learned that it will be performed this fall at the Penobscot Theater in Bangor. We can’t wait to see the play again!
And now Monica brings us a new novel, The One-in-a-Million Boy, a book she actually wrote long ago, and then spent six months editing for publication by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. As she told us in a recent book talk in Farmington, “The book is about the saving grace of unexpected friendships.”
The characters in this novel are so real, from the wonderful 104-year-old woman, Ona, a Lithuanian immigrant, to the young boy who, although he dies very early in the book, remains with us right up to end. The boy’s divorced parents, father Quinn and mother Belle, are very real too, and you will find yourself pausing every now and then to marvel at their realness, and their struggle to move forward after the death of their boy.
The boy had been helping Ona with yard work and other chores, and his Dad stepped up to continue that help after the boy’s death. The boy had talked Ona into going for a Guinness world record as the oldest licensed driver, something that required her to get back the license she had lost. Throughout the book, you’ll be entertained by lists of Guinness records.
As the story moves forward, Quinn, who had largely ignored his son, learns a lot about the boy from the old lady, including the importance of listening and learning. You may learn something yourself from reading this book. You most certainly will be rewarded.
I enjoyed Monica’s recent book talk at Devaney Doak and Garret Booksellers in Farmington, one of my favorite bookstores. Readers were packed into the aisles of the small store, eager to meet and hear from Monica, and she did not disappoint.
Her story of her trip to England, where she enjoyed 3 jam-packed book talks, was interesting. Sponsors charged $15 to attend the book talks, and put Monica up in a luxurious hotel. “They are real readers over there,” she said. Indeed. Equally impressive is that her new novel is being sold all over the world – a first for her, she said.
I asked her if, when she begins writing a novel, she has a good idea of the characters and plot, and she said she did not. “I have no idea where it’s going,” when I start writing, she told us.
Monica said she actually wrote the new book from 2004 to 2008, but the economy crashed just as she finished the book and her publisher at the time rejected it. She set is aside, then took it up again last year and her new publisher accepted it immediately. Good move on their part.
I gained a bit more insight into Monica’s novel-writing thought process when she said, “I love flawed characters. That’s why I read.” When people ask me how I learned to write, I always tell them I learned to write by reading. And I still love books. Writing book reviews for the last five years has been heavenly, and never more so than when I’m reading and writing about books by Monica Wood.
Linda and I were disappointed we were unable to attend the kick-off event at Portland Stage for Monica’s new novel. More than 300 people did attend, and professional actors performed pieces from the book. That must have been awesome!
And we got more good news at the book talk. Monica is working on a new play!