by Emma Donoghue


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The "soul stirring" masterpiece by the New York Times bestselling author of Room: A retired professor's life is thrown into chaos when he takes his great-nephew to the French Riviera ( O Magazine)

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316491990
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 47,090
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish emigrant twice over: she spent eight years in Cambridge doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature before moving to London, Ontario, where she lives with her French partner and their two children.Her fascination with Nice developed over the two years her family have spent in that city.

She also migrates between genres, writing literary history, biography, stage and radio plays as well as fairy tales and short stories. She is best known for her novels, which range from the historical ( Slammerkin, Life Mask, Landing, The Sealed Letter) to the contemporary ( Stir-Fry, Hood, Landing). Her international bestseller Room was a New York Times Best Book of 2010 and was a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth, and Orange Prizes. For more information, visit www.emmadonoghue.com.


London, England and Ontario, Canada

Date of Birth:

October 24, 1969

Place of Birth:

Dublin, Ireland


B.A. in English and French, University College Dublin, 1990; Ph.D. in English, University of Cambridge, 1998

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Akin 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Jill-Elizabeth_dot_com 27 days ago
This was a really lovely, lyrical tale that flowed beautifully, although the slower pace took me a little while to fall into... I've been reviewing a spate of informational non-fiction and thrillers, it seems, and this one was so clearly a work of literary narrative fiction that I had trouble finding my way into the feel of the language and the character-driven story. Once I did (about 10% in), I relaxed into the story and loved every minute of it. It's been a while since I read an Emma Donoghue novel. The first one I read, Life Mask, was picked up at a reading by the author in Philadelphia. I was captivated by her style and grace and the language of the book tugged me into the story right away. Ditto with Slammerkin, which was the next title I read. From there, life happened, and it was a while before I stumbled upon her work again - but by then she was in her contemporary phase - and I just couldn't pull myself into Room, for the subject matter, despite everyone's raves. I really loved her historical fiction because she has a marvelous knack for transporting the reader into a specific time and place through her magnificent attention to the small details (think buttons and fabrics and scents) that make a scene jump off the page and into your head. I think the reason Akin worked so well for me is that, while it is contemporary in setting, so much of the book is dedicated to resolving a life-long mystery that Noah didn't even realize he was living, that it feels historical even though it is not. I loved the way Donoghue drew me into Noah's hunt for meaning, and the way Michael's life overlapped with that quest (both physically, in time, and psychologically). It made for a richly detailed read that tugged at my heartstrings, irritated me, plagued me with concerns that I'd never *really* know what happened, and delighted me with small joys and giggles - exactly as it did for the characters throughout their adventures. Donoghue is a force to be reckoned with, and in Akin I think she has demonstrated this with aplomb. I may even have to set aside my misgivings and give Room a try... Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my obligation-free review copy.
KarenEvans 29 days ago
Initially starting this book before it was published, it made me stressed out. Classy older fellow about to take off for a trip to Europe suddenly finds a teenage relative forced on him by a case worker. It bothered me so much that no one seemed to care about his plans and just expected him to take an extra guest, a rude extra guest, with him to Europe. After receiving a signed copy, I began again and really loved it. I identified with the older man, with his passion for lifelong learning and exploring. The teenage boy reminded me of many students I've worked with who have experienced trauma. I found this book had so many layers- the relationship between those of different ages, the impact of trauma, cultural differences- both in age groups as well as differences due to geography. There was also the bit about why the older man was going to Europe. He came to the United States as a young boy during World War II and he wanted to discover more about his family history. I'm so grateful that Parnassus picked this as their first edition book club pick because I really enjoyed it!
RidgewayGirl 3 months ago
Noah is unprepared for the social worker's request; to foster his nephew's eleven-year-old son, at least temporarily. He's about to turn eighty, content with his quiet, well-heeled life as a retired academic and planning a trip to the French city he left as a young boy. He and his wife had cut ties with their nephew after he'd stolen from them to support his drug habit, so Noah had never even met his great nephew. But he can't quite brush aside the request, given that Michael's only other option is to be put permanently into the system, where he'll lose all contact with his incarcerated mother. So off they go, a careful elderly man looking for his roots and a unmoored child covering his loss and lack of security with a fierce bravado. Emma Donoghue takes a few familiar literary tropes (the protagonist looking for his roots, the odd couple, the fish out of water) and approaches them with an unexpected freshness. Every time I thought the novel was falling into a rut, Donoghue surprised me. Noah spends his time in Nice searching for evidence of his mother's years after she'd bundled him alone as a four-year-old to make the long transatlantic voyage to his father in New York, until she joined them after the war. And as he learned both about what happened in Nice during WWII and specifically about his mother, he begins to form a picture of what she was doing in those years. But Noah's research has holes in it, and he's making some big assumptions. And then there's Michael, a heartbreakingly realistic boy. He's got layers of defense built up and all the habits that seem designed to annoy a cultured old man, from the refusal to eat anything but the familiar to the constant phone time. Donoghue allows Michael to be revealed through Noah's observations and it's beautifully done. This is a quiet, reflective novel about change, whether utter, life up-ending change or as an adjustment in how a relationship is viewed long after its end. Donoghue manages to inhabit the lives of two characters at opposite ends of their life trajectories and to do so with great empathy. A solid novel that I'll be thinking about for some time to come.
PaulAllard 3 months ago
A voyage of discovery for two very different family members - an enjoyable read. This novel brings together an elderly retired and widowed professor of chemistry living in Manhattan and his young great-nephew from a reasonably deprived background. They end up going to Nice to uncover family secrets. As events unwind, the gap between them narrows as they try to interpret their findings. The characters are possibly the most important element of the book as they develop and change as well as their interpretation of events during the Nazi occupation. It reads well and is quite entertaining. I recommend it and I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 5 months ago
What a gem of a book. I just love that it centers around an older person (Noah is turning 80) who is still functioning with all his creaks in his body and quirks in his mind (he talks to his dead wife for instance). There is just not enough literature about older people and we have been blessed by Olive Kitteridge and now Noah Selvaggio, a former chemistry professor. Through a series of circumstances, Noah becomes the temporary guardian of his 11 year old great nephew, Michael. This is quite frustrating for a number of reasons. Noah is ready to leave on a trip to his hometown of Nice, France, where he has not been since he was a young child. He has never met Michael and, frankly, is not sure he's ready to take on a young boy. But Michael has nowhere else to go so Noah makes the leap and decides to take Michael with him on the trip. Michael certainly spices things up as you can imagine. Meanwhile Noah is on the quest to discover the secret of his mother's past. She was the daughter of a very famous photographer who had her own secret life. She sent her son and his father to America at the beginning of WWII and remained at her father's side in France. Noah wants to know why and what she did during that time. This is a moving book about relationships and the discovery of self. I found it so different from her earlier works including [book:Room|31685789] and [book:The Wonder|28449257] but every bit as touching. She is such a skilled author to write such varied works. This was a pleasure from beginning to end. Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
labmom55 5 months ago
I’ve enjoyed everything by Emma Donoghue that I’ve read, so there was no doubting I was going to miss out on this. With the frequency of grandparents taking care of grandkids because the parents are dead or incarcerated, it’s just a slight stretch that a great uncle would get the call. Noah, a 79 year old professor, gets just that request right before he’s due to visit Nice, his place of birth and a place he hasn’t seen since leaving when he was four. As someone who’s not a natural with kids, I immediately bonded with Noah. Donoghue totally gets that fight to keep some level of communication going and what a struggle it is, especially when things we take for granted (grammar, history) are total unknowns to the youngster. Noah’s efforts to explain an adverb vs. an adjective could have been lifted from my life! And the generational divide overrides every socio-economic difference, especially when it comes to an addiction to electronics. The kid was looking at his phone again. “Ah, back to the screen.” “You talk a lot dude,” Michael murmured without looking up. There’s a mystery to solve as well. Noah has snapshots his mother took during the war. But they’re such odd photos, he’s not sure what/where/who they involve. While in Nice, he attempts to solve the puzzle. I loved this book. Between the characters, the mystery and the beautiful writing,I was entranced. I loved how even throw away lines rang so true. “They climbed the steps, Noah’s hip speaking to him. Tourism was such an odd mixture of the tiring and the hedonistic.” And how photography was a constant theme throughout the book. My thanks to netgalley and Little, Brown for an advance copy of this book.