Thursday, March 26, 2020


Title:  Akin
Author:  Emma Donoghue
Publication Information:  Little, Brown and Company. 2019. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0316491993 / 978-0316491990

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "An old man packing his bags."

Favorite Quote:  "Every childhood had its own unspoken rules, he reminded himself, and at the time they seemed unbreakable, perpetual."

I absolutely loved Room by Emma Donoghue. Even though I read it years ago, it still stands out as a memorable story. Since then, I have read Wonder which had an equally strong premise but not quite the intensity and believability. So, when a new book by Emma Donoghue comes out, I look to recapture the intensity and lasting impact of the original.

Both Room and Wonder have a single unifying focus that carries through the story. The focus of Akin is a less clear. The book centers on two characters. Noah Selvaggio is a widower. He is retired. He is also on his way from New York City to Nice on a hunt for his own past and for his mother's story. Michael is eleven years old. He has just the only stability in his life. His mother is incarcerated. He is in need of a caretaker. Noah is his closest available relative. So, they become an unlikely pair.

My first issue is that the entire premise seems highly unlikely. The idea of social services placing a child with a little known relative with no investigation and only one meeting seems counter to how social services works to protect the interest of a child. Further, the idea that social services would then allow this individual to take the child internationally is even more unlikely. Unfortunately, this lack of initial credibility serves as the beginning of the book.

Putting that aside, I am still willing to follow the story and see where it goes. It has the potential to be touching and sweet. That tone is not what the book achieves. Throughout, it seems as though the book is following two stories - Noah and Michael as an unlikely pair and Noah's search for his mother's past. The two stories never really come together in a cohesive whole for me. Throughout, I feel as though I am trying to hold on to two threads.

Noah's mother story leads to a tale of World War II and the resistance. Unfortunately, so much of the book is about the research for the story than the story itself. The tale might be interesting; research the tale is not.

Sadly, the most memorable parts of Noah and Michael's story are the stereotypical depiction of Michael and overabundant profanity. Yes, adolescents can be mouthy and abrupt. However, not all the time. Also, no parent (or parent-like) figure would tolerate such behavior all the time.

I find myself skimming through to see if the characters or the story evolves throughout the book. Sadly, I find that it does not. I keep reading for the story to ring true, and it does not. I am disappointed.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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