In a small, tidy, heated backyard studio with ladder bookcases and an L-shaped tabletop, built by her husband 22 years ago, a Maine author crafted a touching tale that explores relationships, heartbreak and the intersection of the two.
Author and playwright Monica Wood’s newest book, “The One-in-A-Million Boy,” tells the story of the aftermath of the death of an 11-year-old boy who’d forged a friendship with an 104-year-old woman. While his family reels from his death, his often-absent father steps in to finish a weekly commitment the boy had made to the woman, Ona Vitkus, to fulfill the requirements for an unfinished Boy Scout badge his son was working on.
The story is one that just came to Wood.
“Some books just arrive. This was one of them. Which is not to say it was easy; it was the hardest one yet,” Wood said in an email interview earlier this week.
Although the novel is set in Portland, the story — and some places — aren’t real, and the boy remains nameless throughout the story.
“I made up the street name where Ona Vitkus lives, but the astute reader will readily place it. As for the boy, I felt that to name him — a character who is not of the world anymore — was to tether him to the earth in a way that felt wrong. He does have a name, by the way, but it’s a secret,” said Wood.
Wood celebrated her book’s release on Tuesday with a sold-out launch party and book signing at Portland Stage in Portland. She has another release party and signing scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Nonesuch Books in South Portland.
“My calendar is filling up as we speak. I logged a ridiculous number of miles for my last book, and those libraries and other venues have asked me back,” said Wood. “I did well over 200 events, which was too many, honestly. But it’s very, very hard to say no to a Maine asker, you know? They are so loyal, and I love them.”
Wood hopes her book is a worthy diversion for readers who dig into the nuanced story.
“I always hope for them to feel as if they have left their own lives for a while and spent time with people they care for. And I also hope they come away talking, excitedly, about something that popped up as a result of spending that time,” said Wood.
As for Wood’s acclaimed play “Papermaker,” it will be staged in Bangor during the Penobscot Theatre Company’s next season.
“It’s on the schedule for Penobscot Theatre in Bangor for next year. Other theaters elsewhere are reading it, too, so keep your fingers crossed,” said Wood.
But don’t count on owning that work any time soon.
“I’m in no hurry to publish the play. I’d like to see another production or two first, in case I want to make changes. Plays are so fluid,” said Wood.