Coast of Akron


A Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction Book of the Year
An Editors' Pick of the Year
A Newsday Best Book of the Year

The Coast of Akron is the story of the gloriously unorthodox, maladjusted, brilliant Haven clan. In the thirty years since artists Lowell and Jenny met, inspired each other, and separated, Lowell ascended to fame while Jenny mothered their talented and now-grown daughter, Merit. In an ...

See more details below
Paperback (First Edition)
$18.24 price
(Save 8%)$20.00 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (19) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $1.99   
  • Used (11) from $1.99   
The Coast of Akron: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - First Edition)
$7.99 price


A Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction Book of the Year
An Editors' Pick of the Year
A Newsday Best Book of the Year

The Coast of Akron is the story of the gloriously unorthodox, maladjusted, brilliant Haven clan. In the thirty years since artists Lowell and Jenny met, inspired each other, and separated, Lowell ascended to fame while Jenny mothered their talented and now-grown daughter, Merit. In an attempt to answer questions and heal old wounds, Lowell's dyspeptic lover, Fergus, lures the family and guests back to the hallowed faux-Tudor mansion where it all began. It is at this lavish gathering that long-standing secrets, as well as bonds, will be revealed.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Adrienne Miller's enormous talent is evident on every page. . . . She has written a big, smart novel that's confident and juicy."--Curtis Sittenfeld, The Washington Post

"Miller's handling of this crew is a joy, the characters revealing themselves through a clever and deftly synchronized plot and unflaggingly witty prose."--The Boston Globe

"When Miller lights the narrative fuse, her readers wait for the fireworks with heart-pounding giddiness. . . . Yet, oddly enough, it isn't the zany plot that provides the most excitement. Instead, the pyrotechnics come from Miller's enormous wit and linguistic creativity."--The New York Times Book Review

"The Coast of Akron is a joy to read and decipher."--The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Splendidly realized characters . . . Miller is a gifted ventriloquist."--Chicago Tribune

"As a farce, the book could not be more bizarre, or more dead-on-target. . . . The novel this one most resembles is Don DeLillo's classic White Noise. Like the Gladneys of DeLillo's book, the family in this lively debut has a slaphappy giddiness that seems almost to come from something in the air."--The Independent (London)

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
" . . . THE COAST OF AKRON" is a joy to read and to decipher. Whether you are on a coast that's real or fabricated, this is a superb cerebral beach book for the summer of 2005."
Curtis Sittenfeld
"Let's get this part out of the way: Adrienne Miller is 33, she's pretty, and she's the literary editor of Esquire, meaning she's well-connected. For all these reasons, her debut novel is being greeted with both extra attention and extra suspicion. It's the attention that's warranted . . . Miller's enormous talent is evident on every page . . . [Miller] has written a big book, a novel that's smart and confident and juicy, and in doing so, she has pulled off an impressive artistic feat."
The Washington Post
"Literary-fiction aficionados should take note of this deft comic novel."
LA Times Book Review
"...unlike a typical debut...It's campy, complicated and almost unnervingly professional, as though Adrienne Miller had been knocking out this stuff for years...It's a frolic and I relished every frivolous page."
"Miller's eclectic characters are flawed and deceitful, yet heartbreakingly human, while her writing is brutally honest, often hilarious, and endlessly haunting."
Chicago Tribune
"Miller is a gifted ventriloquist . . . Imaginative, refreshingly eccentric and, at times, strangely moving, this is truly a book whose characters stay with you long after you put them back on the shelf--whether at page 70, after the first evening of reading, or at page 390, where THE COAST OF AKRON reaches its memorable and poetic conclusion."
Publishers Weekly
The soul of the Haven family decays inside a massive faux Tudor dubbed On Ne Peut Pas Vivre Seul "One Cannot Live Alone." Barraged with the spiraling lies and self-deceptions chronicled here, however, readers may wonder whether living alone is such a bad idea. This first book by Miller, Esquire's award-winning fiction editor, entertains, even fascinates, but ultimately strands the reader with the family's unresolved conflicts and filthy laundry at a homestead literally in flames. The story centers on Merit Haven Ash, grown daughter of two artists, Jenny Meatyard Haven and Lowell Haven, and Fergus Goldwyn, Lowell's lover and Merit's surrogate parent. Miller's talent for caricature is evident early on, as Merit observes her husband Wyatt's obsessive-compulsive behavior, and Fergus, as fabulously bitchy as he is lonely, describes Lowell's evil self-obsession. The author tempers her humor admirably, too, tucking in heartbreaking moments of self-reflection. The trouble is that the scenes don't hang together. Lowell and Jenny are fascinating raptors, and the reader is ready for confrontation as Miller tells the characters' secrets and escalates the drama toward a costume party that is the family's finis. But along the way, Merit and Fergus morph so extremely that their behavior stops making sense. Perhaps their leaps in personality are Miller's take on what happens to children and adults childlike in their desire for love when they are betrayed. At the (abrupt and confusing) end, however, it's not the fault of readers if they feel as lost and confused as troubled Merit and her adoptive parent, Fergus. Agent, Christy Fletcher. Author tour. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Brilliant artist Lowell no longer paints and has abandoned wife Jenny for Jenny's best friend, Fergus. Now Fergus is trying to win back Lowell's estranged daughter with a lavish party. A highly touted debut. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Inflamed artistic temperaments and miscellaneous relationship issues preoccupy two generations of immediate and extended families-in a crowded debut by Esquire's literary editor. Somewhat contentedly married Merit Ash stoically endures her Mr. Fixit husband Wyatt's finicky perfectionism, while performing her tasks for local regional magazine Ohio Is without tumbling too quickly into bed with sexy slacker co-worker Randy. Nor does Merit lack other baggage, most of it inherited from her father, Lowell Haven, a flamboyant artist best known for his absurdly egocentric "self-portraits" (Lowell as the Wife of Bath and other Canterbury Pilgrims, Lowell Crucified with Cow Crucified Next to Him, etc.), and mother Jenny, herself a painter, long divorced from Lowell, whose imagined grisly deaths dominate many of her canvasses. We learn their histories through omniscient narration of Merit's increasingly distracted misadventures; excerpts from Jenny's diary detailing her flight to London in the 1970s, "work" as a woefully unqualified au pair for a bisexual rich twit's family, and fateful meeting with dashing young Lowell; and the tres gai effusions of real estate heir Fergus Goodwyn, who was Jenny's high school confidant, and now lives with his lover Lowell (and other spongers) at On Ne Peut Pas Vivre Seul, a 65-room mansion smack in the middle of the Ohio heartland, that's a cross between Fawlty Towers and Michael Jackson's Neverland. The story's actions (so to speak) are focused toward a lavish climactic party, at which it seems perfectly reasonable when the Ashes' preadolescent daughter Caroline arrives costumed as Caligula, and no big deal when Jenny reveals what's meant to be a bombshell but infact strikes us as simply further calculated eccentricity. It's all funny for a while, but eventually the reader feels as if trapped at an endless cocktail party, pinned in a corner with Truman Capote, Nancy Mitford and Alec Guinness as Gully Jimson in The Horse's Mouth. Mostly frosting, not nearly enough cake. Author tour
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312425135
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 5/16/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Adrienne Miller is the literary editor at Esquire, which won the 2004 National Magazine Award for Fiction. She now lives in New York City. This is her first novel.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Coast of Akron



Copyright © 2005 Adrienne Miller
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-374-12512-0

Chapter One

Wyatt's glasses were crooked again. Merit rinsed her hands in the kitchen sink, shook them, and took three long, resolute steps toward him. She removed his glasses. Wyatt had just come in from mowing the lawn. He smiled. She smiled. Merit and Wyatt had been married for five years.

Merit held the glasses up to the ceiling light. Somehow, every pair went immediately lopsided on Wyatt. These years of repositioning (on three different pairs of glasses) had led Merit to think-and she'd voiced this suspicion more than once, alas-that maybe his ears were crooked, just a little bit.

Wyatt wore long pants (mosquitoes), although it was August and, at 7:00 p.m., ninety degrees. This past week, he'd rigged up an ultraviolet-light mosquito killer. A fan drew the mosquitoes into "the unit" (Wyatt's term) and into a tray of water. He'd cleverly added a few drops of liquid soap to the water, which, he'd explained, lowered the surface tension. The unit didn't work tremendously well, in Merit's opinion, so now Wyatt was, for reasons unclear to Merit, trying to create carbon dioxide. Merit wasn't sure how one created carbon dioxide exactly, or what it had to do with the mosquitoes; she didn't like the idea of killing animals, even insects, and didn't ask.

Wyatt leaned over the sink and washed his hands with dishwashing liquid. Merit got a good look at his backside. Was his ass actually clenched, or did it just appear to be? She had never known. Wyatt could whistle, which Merit could not, but he was, pound for pound, as dreadful a singer as Merit was. Unlike Merit, however, he was oblivious to his talentlessness. His two current around-the-house favorites were "Band on the Run" and "Lady." If Merit were ever to tell Wyatt how bad his singing voice was, he would certainly disappear into his study, probably for hours, and would possibly stop talking to her for the rest of the day. She knew she was capable of hurting Wyatt. She knew she could hurt him more than he could hurt her.

For Mother's Day this year, Wyatt had bought Merit a miniature Persian rug mouse pad (priced at a remarkable forty-five dollars on Merit's fact-finding journey to Alfredo & Me Gifts at the mall) and two packs of paper cocktail napkins decorated with a field full of rusty greenish triangles that were meant to be either sailboats or pine trees. Merit had been curious about why he'd bought her a Mother's Day gift at all. But she hadn't commented on it.

Wyatt fixed things. Wyatt built things. His motto (Merit's husband was a man with an actual motto) was "In God We Trust. All Others Must Use Data." One of Wyatt's "personal goals" (Wyatt was, unlike Merit, someone with personal goals) was to have, within two years, a house whose lights were entirely controlled by sensors. He called his dream the Smart House. Merit had no idea whether the term came from some magazine or what, but she did know the term irritated her the way the words condiment, slough, slacks, and doily did, too.

The overhead upstairs hallway light had been the first step Smart House-ward, although the motion sensors there weren't exactly what you'd call foolproof. Sometimes, at night, when Merit lay in bed, she'd hear Wyatt curse, "God damn it, Wyatt" (after he'd stubbed his toe) outside in the black hallway, and she couldn't help thinking sometimes that her husband's in-progress Smart House could maybe be just a little bit smarter.

Merit's home with Wyatt was very different from the house in which she herself had grown up. She liked that.

When Caroline, Wyatt's daughter, was small, Wyatt built her bedroom furniture (furniture that, much to Caroline's recent adolescent humiliation, was still in her room). He had also built her a dollhouse, a sandbox, and a jungle gym. Last year, Wyatt had made a wooden enclosure-Merit refused to call it a "pen"-for their pig, Arabella. (Their animals, Merit knew, made Wyatt nervous.) The enclosure was constructed of three-foot-high cedar planks, the same planks that were being used for the deck. Uniformity was one of Wyatt's watchwords. On one of the enclosure's walls, he had mounted a fan, a very large fan, four feet in diameter, which, even on calm days, even under optimal sanitary conditions, was unable to entirely overcome the ... well, odor. To give him credit, though, Wyatt hadn't complained when, five years ago, just weeks after she'd moved in, Merit brought Arabella home unannounced. Arabella had been advertised in the paper as a Vietnamese potbellied pig. Only recently had Merit been able to admit to herself she'd been had. Arabella's present weight: approximately five hundred pounds. Wyatt had never once suggested he and Merit give Arabella away to a farm, where she'd surely be more comfortable and among her own kind, and had never made any "If we get nuked, at least we'll have Arabella to eat" jokes. Arabella was furry and piebald and wagged her tail like a dog. She had tusks.

There was a rabbit, too. Name: Tonya. Tonya wasn't allowed out of the bedroom. This was another of Wyatt's rules. In an effort to protect the bedroom walls from rabbit urine, Wyatt had taped up sheets of polyethylene film. Every quarter year he removed the previous quarter's rabbited plastic, measured each wall again, and cut four more pieces of premeasured polyethylene. Any occurrence of rabbit urine through plastic on any area of the bedroom walls (not to mention any occurrence of rabbit fecal matter anywhere other than in the bedroom's approved rabbit-fecal-matter receptacle) meant FAILURE in all caps and would require a redoubling on Wyatt's part of rabbit-containment efforts. The only mean thing Wyatt had ever said about Tonya was this: "It's like living with a goddamned squirrel." He'd said this through gritted teeth one night in bed. He'd awakened because Tonya was urinating on his face. Merit worried Tonya hadn't really ever liked Wyatt. Now she knew.

Merit's animal thing was entirely antithetical to Wyatt's nature. If it were up to Merit, the animals would just be allowed to run amok, but for Wyatt, who wished to organize that which was by definition unorganizable, the animals meant too much potential for unpredictable spontaneous interaction.

Wyatt owned a sweatshirt that said PERFECTION IS OUR GOAL and an older, pre-Merit one that said REENGINEERING! Caroline, Wyatt's daughter, had drawn in two dots over reengineering's second e with a blue Magic Marker. Merit guessed Caroline had seen the umlaut usage in a magazine to which Merit subscribed but which she never read. Caroline was thirteen. Merit still didn't know if the kids in her class made fun of her.

"Maybe this side is a little bit bent or something," Merit said, even though she knew it wasn't. She held the glasses up for Wyatt to observe.

"Could be the nose pads," Wyatt said. "Jiggle the nose pads around."

"It's not the nose pads. Look."

"Here. Give it here."

"Just keep your pants on, mister," Merit said.

Merit slid the glasses back on his face, careful not to stab his ears. Oh, hopeless! They were even more crooked than before.

"Much better," Merit said.


Excerpted from The Coast of Akron by ADRIENNE MILLER Copyright © 2005 by Adrienne Miller. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2005

    Gently funny with excellent characters

    Why is Merit Haven Ash feeling so out of sorts? She¿s got a good job, a willing assistant, an upstanding husband, and a party to attend. So what¿s the problem? Just that her job selling ad-space to a magazine bores her her willing assistant is altogether incompetent¿and appealing her husband ¿ with his chronically-crooked glasses ¿ is a tad bit on the uptight side and the party? Well, that¿s the worst part of all. That¿s the part where she¿ll be thrown into a room with her mother, her father, her ¿Uncle¿ Fergus, and a gigantic family lie. Adrienne Miller¿s THE COAST OF AKRON is the story of Merit Haven Ash and her parents, Lowell Haven and Jenny Meatyard. Lowell Haven is a famous artist, best-known for his haunting and outrageous self-portraits. Jenny is an artist, too, best-known for¿well, not known, really. And then there¿s ¿Uncle¿ Fergus who fancies himself Merit¿s mother and best friend. When Fergus¿s omnipresence and Lowell¿s philandering drive Jenny and Merit right out of the house and out of their lives nearly everyone is scarred. Lowell suddenly quits painting. Jenny dives into a bottle and rarely comes out. Merit flounders at work and at home. And Fergus clings to reality only by a fingernail and a penchant for dramatic flair. So what¿s to happen when Fergus is charged with planning a party for one of Lowell¿s ¿friends?¿ Only the outrageous, of course. THE COAST OF AKRON is a wry tale with characters so strange they almost have to be real. Their quirks, desires and actions give Miller¿s story a delicious can¿t-stay-away quality that has the reader glued to the very page for wonder of what ludicrous action is next on the list of Merit, Jenny, Lowell, and Fergus. With plenty of action and lots of emotion, Miller carries the story along nicely ¿ the only dull moments being a couple of lengthy passages of poor writing on Fergus¿s part. Make no mistake, however. Adrienne Miller herself is no poor writer. Dispersed throughout the book are emotional gems such as this: ¿Then he whispered into my ear, `I love you so much that I¿m afraid, my dear, I¿m just going to have to call you `Me¿!¿¿ (p. 161) Miller¿s humor is very understated and someone who needs jokes to smack them upside the head will likely be dumbfounded by THE COAST OF AKRON. Sardonic situations and wordplay are the name of the game here, with the irony of her characters¿ situations lending themselves to wry humor that is not so much laugh-out-loud funny as they are completely amusing. Adrienne Miller¿s THE COAST OF AKRON is a gently funny read that will particularly appeal to a younger generation (perhaps the college-to- thirty-somethings crowd). While it is not a light or quick read, the time spent carousing with the words on the page feels like it flies. It is, indeed, time well spent.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific often amusing and as equally tragic family drama

    In the mid 1970s, Lowell Haven met and married Jenny in London they had in common painting as both were talented artists. The two American settled in Akron where they had a daughter Merit. However, Lowell¿s womanizing and need to be part of the gentry aristocracy takes it toll on Jenny, who in spite of loving her mendicant spouse, divorces him. --- Lowell is now a famous portrait artist though he has not done anything in five years while Jenny¿s talent died when her beloved killed their relationship when he seduced her best friend Fergus and moved into Fergus¿ lavish mansion. Fergus assumes that Merit running away from her parents has devastated Lowell, who no longer paints. To get him back to doing the popular self portraits that has brought fame and fortune Fergus believes he needs Merit home. Fergus chooses to throw a gala inviting the Midwestern aristocracy, but not knowing that one of the guests is the true secret behind Jenny¿s collapse, Merit¿s running away and Lowell quitting. --- THE COAST OF AKRON is a terrific often amusing and as equally tragic family drama that showcases what happens when someone obsessively needs to possess a butterfly that needs to be left free. The well written insightful story line contains full blooded key characters and a strong support cast that enhances the look into the behavior of the three Havens, Fergus, and the prime guest. Contemporary readers will enjoy Adrienne Miller¿s cross Atlantic three decade character study. --- Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)