THE ONE-IN-A-MILLION BOY

By Monica Wood

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

323 pages, $25

American humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910) once said: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Ona Vitkus, 104, has that nicely figured out, and she is just the person to teach Quinn Porter some valuable lessons about love, grief and friendship.

The One-In-A-Million Boy is best-selling Portland author Monica Wood’s latest novel — a poignant and tender story about a man grieving over the death of his young son, and the old woman who showed him a way out of his despair.

The unnamed boy, Quinn’s son, is an 11-year-old Boy Scout trying to earn a merit badge by doing chores for elderly Ona. He is precocious, wicked smart, polite and eager. She is sharp and funny and sees innocence and goodness in the boy. When the boy dies suddenly of an unexpected heart ailment, Quinn feels obligated by guilt to fulfill his son’s merit badge requirements. He goes to Ona’s house every Saturday, just as his son did, doing the boy’s chores.

Quinn is a busy musician who never had time for his wife or his son, paying a heavy price with divorce and estrangement from the boy he never really knew. He realizes he loved his son, but sadly, “not until after he was gone.”

In just seven weeks, Ona had come to understand and love the little boy and now she must share that love and those feelings with the father, teaching Quinn about his son. The boy wanted Ona to win a Guinness World Record as the oldest living licensed driver, inspiring her to start driving again. Now the father must encourage her to finish the boy’s dream.

And an old forgotten song saves them both.

GHOST BUCK: THE LEGACY OF ONE MAN’S FAMILY AND ITS HUNTING TRADITIONS

By Dean Bennett

Islandport Press, 2015

296 pages, $16.95

Maine outdoorsman, educator and environmentalist Dean Bennett is well-known for his lucid writing and strong positions on environmental ethics and wilderness conservation. He is also an avid deer hunter.

Bennett has written 10 books on these subjects, including “The Wilderness From Chamberlain Farm” (2001), a remarkable history of the Allagash viewed from an abandoned 19th-century farm. With “Ghost Buck,” Bennett’s writing takes a more personal direction, a family memoir of six generations at Camp Sheepskin in western Maine (near Bryant Pond and Greenwood City).

Bennett was born and raised in Greenwood and now lives in Hallowell. His first trip to Camp Sheepskin was when he was 3 years old, 78 years ago. This collection of 27 stories tells of his family’s multi-generational heritage of hunting, as well as the many cultural changes imposed by politics, tourists, poachers and automobiles over the years.

This is a family chronicle of wilderness hunting that vividly and respectfully describes “the simple pleasure of connecting with yourself, with others and with a certain place in nature, and with one of its creatures of grace and beauty — the white-tailed deer, an animal interwoven into the fabric of our culture, particularly so for those in rural areas who have a long line of ancestral connection.”

Bennett tells of learning to hunt with his grandfather, father and uncles, tracking deer and sitting patiently for hours waiting for the right shot. Deer hunting was not just a sport, it was a necessity as the family needed the meat.

Other stories tell of Maine’s gradual attraction as a sportsman’s paradise, how poaching created the warden service and about nature’s wildlife predators. Learn about the frog-selling business, who the unfragrant “Widow Jones” really was and why good hearing is just as important as good eyesight.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.