In her first contemporary novel since Room, bestselling author Emma Donoghue returns with a brilliant tale of love, loss and family. The life of a retired New York professor is thrown into chaos when he takes his great-nephew to the French Riviera in the hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets.
Noah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when he receives an unexpected request. A social worker is looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Although he has never met the boy, Noah is convinced to take Michael with him to France.
Suffering from jet lag and culture shock, the odd couple argue about everything from steak haché to screen time, and the trip shows every sign of being a disaster. But Michael’s skill with tech and his sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Eventually they both come to understand that people of all eras run risks on behalf of their loved ones. In learning this they discover that they are more akin than they knew.
Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room a huge bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy who unpick the threads of their painful stories and start to write a new one together.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Emma Donoghue has a talent for getting into your head—those who read or saw Room know that all too well. Donoghue sets up a truly odd couple with Noah and Michael, an 80-year-old man and the 11-year-old great-nephew he meets for the first time, and tells her characters’ stories in a way that magnifies their strengths and flaws. As her mismatched duo embark on a trip to Nice to uncover family secrets, their intergenerational friction flares up in relatable ways. In the end, though, Donoghue beautifully shows how two seemingly incompatible strangers can find common ground when they choose to see and accept each other as whole people. Akin is one of those novels that feels nourishing to the mind and soul.
Donoghue's underwhelming latest features a troubled doppelg nger of the sweet na f from her best-known novel, Room, a foul-mouthed 11-year-old named Michael, whose great-uncle Noah takes him to the French Riviera to save him from the foster care system after Michael's father dies of an apparent overdose and his mother, who is in prison, is unable to care for him. In the present day, Noah, having discovered some photographs taken by his mother during the two years she spent in Vichy France, and wishing to discover their significance, travels to Nice with Michael in tow. Dialogue between the two predominates as they wander about the city, constantly squabbling along predictably generational lines, searching for clues about whether Noah's mother was a Nazi collaborator or part of the Resistance. The reader is soon exasperated with Noah's own collaboration with the author, who won't let him solve the mystery without Michael's age-appropriate technological savvy. This work seems like a pale redux of Room, with its depiction of the wonder of a sheltered boy supplanted by the cynicism of a damaged one, whose voice doesn't always ring true. The gap between Michael's view of the world and the reader's feels less charged than it should be, though the book makes up for it to some degree with a very satisfying denouement. This is a minor work in Donoghue's astounding oeuvre.