“Akin” by Emma Donoghue, New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Noah Selvaggio has long since passed the time of obligations and is just beginning to settle into his retirement.  The former chemistry professor and widower from New York’s Upper West Side is getting ready to fulfill his recently passes sisters last wishes and doing something spontaneous with the money she left.  Returning to Nice, the place of his birth for the first time since he was sent away during World War II when he was four is a wish he’s long since ignored.  Now, days away from leaving, he receives a call from social services.  He is the only eligible relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew that he’s never met, who urgently needs a guardian.

Thrusts into an awkward situation, Noah finds himself guilted into agreeing to take Michael along on his trip.  Because the chaos of last minute travel arrangements to the French Riviera and the potential of twenty-four/seven contact with someone you barely know is the start of any healthy relationship.  Through the shock of becoming an unexpected, temporary guardian, jetlag, and culture shock, the unlikely duo bicker about everything.  But as they settle into the seaside mecca, the charm of the location and Noah’s quest to uncover his mother’s wartime secret through the handful of puzzling photos he’d discovered the pair come to a tentative understanding. 

Michael’s sharp wit and ease with technology force Noah to appreciate the companionship while unearthing troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to acknowledge the risks people in all eras must navigate for their loved ones and find that they have more akin than they thought.

From the bestselling author of Room, this well-written story is full of family turmoil, tenderness and discovery.  A funny and heart-warming story of an old man and a boy, born generations apart, discovering the history of their family together to forge a path into the future.

Susana Goldman is the Director of the Alamance County Public Library.  She can be reached at (336) 513-4753 or sgoldman@alamancelibraries.org.