Noah Selvaggio is a widowed and now retired Chemistry professor living alone in New York City. We find him preparing to take a trip back to Nice, a city in the south of France, and the place of his birth. He is planning to take along a series of puzzling photographs that were taken by his mother living there during the Nazi occupation.
He is suddenly disturbed by a call from social service advising him that he is a great uncle to a child he has never seen. And he is the only available relative since the boy’s father has died and his mother is currently incarcerated. Noah reluctantly agrees to take the eleven year old boy with him to France while the agency finds another relative to take the lad in.
The story is about the trip and the relationship of Noah and the boy during the week that they spend together in France. Yes, it is a heartwarming portrait involving several factors. Noah investigates the photos taken by his mother and develops a picture of her past and her role in the French resistance movement. He also begins to look at Michael, the young boy as something other than an inconvenience.
Donoghue is a wordsmith, presenting her wonderful story in a manner that quickly draws in the reader by the creation of people that act and feel as many would if taking part in the happenings described. It’s a five star book, one that will cause a good feeling for the people that read it.
9/19 Paul Lane
AKIN by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown and Company (September 10, 2019). ISBN 978-0316491990. 352p.