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Akin
by Emma Donoghue




Overview -
This "soul stirring" novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Room (O Magazine) is one of the New York Post's best books of the year.
Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he's discovered from his mother's wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he's never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.
Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy's truculent wit, and Michael's ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family's past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.
"What begins as a larky story of unlikely male bonding turns into an off-center but far richer novel about the unheralded, imperfect heroism of two women." -- New York Times

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Overview

This "soul stirring" novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Room (O Magazine) is one of the New York Post's best books of the year.
Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he's discovered from his mother's wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he's never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.
Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy's truculent wit, and Michael's ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family's past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.
"What begins as a larky story of unlikely male bonding turns into an off-center but far richer novel about the unheralded, imperfect heroism of two women." -- New York Times

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316491990
  • ISBN-10: 0316491993
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company
  • Publish Date: September 2019
  • Page Count: 352
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Akin

Stories about the mysteries of childhood have often been at the heart of Emma Donoghue’s fiction, from the boy who spent his first five years imprisoned in Room to the 11-year-old girl who refused all food in The Wonder. The two characters at the heart of Akin grapple with the effects of difficult upbringings, and inner demons and the desire to understand them drive the present-day narrative.

It’s February in New York, and Noah Selvaggio is packing for an 80th birthday trip to Nice, France, where he was born. He hasn’t been to Nice since age 4, when his mother, Margot, sent him to live with his father in America. She stayed behind to care for her own father, a famous photographer, in the later years of World War II.

Noah married Joan, a fellow chemist, and they remained together for almost 40 years until her recent death from cancer. When Noah went through the belongings of his recently deceased younger sister, he found nine black-and-white photos from the 1930s and ’40s. Noah suspects that Margot had printed them herself. Part of the reason for his trip to Nice is to learn more about his mother and the places depicted in her pictures.

But before he leaves, he gets a call from Children’s Services asking him to be temporary guardian for Michael, his 11-year-old great-nephew. Michael’s father, Victor, is dead from an apparent overdose, and his mother is in jail. Noah is the closest available kin. Reluctantly, Noah agrees to take Michael, an ill-mannered potty-mouth fond of violent video games, on his journey.

What follows is an emotionally trying trip to France, with Noah struggling to keep Michael out of mischief as he pieces together the puzzle of the photographs, which suggest that Margot may have had greater involvement in the war than anyone in the family ever knew.

Akin isn’t as tightly plotted as Donoghue’s previous works, and many scenes play out like a Nice travelogue more than a novel. But Donoghue does an admirable job dramatizing the sacrifices people are often forced to make for younger generations, sometimes in unimaginably dangerous situations.

 

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