Akin is the story of an 80 year old widower’s travels through the past and into the future.

Noah Selvaggio has decided to celebrate his upcoming 80th birthday by taking a trip to his place of birth, Nice France. Noah’s wife, Joan, who had died nine years earlier, continues to talk to Noah. Noah and Joan were both scientists, although Joan had been significantly more renowned than Noah. Joan was Jewish and had kept her name after they married. They had not had children and their marriage was progressive for the time.  Joan and Noah’s mother did not have a warm relationship.

As Noah is making his preparations for his trip, he receives a call from Rosa at the “Administration for Children’s Services”. Rosa advises him that the 11 year old son (Michael)  of his now deceased nephew,  is in need of a temporary caregiver. Noah’s nephew and Michael’s father had died of a drug overdose, Michael’s mother is in jail for dealing drugs and his grandmother has just died. Noah is the closest next of kin with the capacity to take care of Michael. Needless to say, Noah is less than thrilled. Arrangements are made and Noah agrees to take temporary responsibility for Michael, including him in his trip to France.

Prior to taking the trip, Noah discovers photographs taken by his mother, Margot, in France during World War II. One of the photos is of a small boy who is not Noah.  Noah begins to wonder whether his mother has a secret life.   In the meantime, we learn that Noah’s grandfather had been a famous photographer in France and that Noah’s mother felt  obligated to care for him during World War II. As a result, Noah and his father came to America without Margot, who arrived about 2-1/2 years later, after her father died. Noah is intrigued by his mother’s mysterious existence before her arrival to America.

Noah and Michael go off to France and Michael is as ill-behaved as you would expect of an uprooted 11 year old. Noah attempts to treat him like an adult but Michael is trying. During the trip, Noah learns more about the years his mother stayed in France and is attempting to determine whether she was a Nazi collaborator or part of the opposition.

Michael causes Noah to think about the differences between living a life of privilege and a life of challenge. Michael and Noah discuss drugs, gangs, money, the past and the future. The story ends much as you think it would. Noah rescues Michael; Michael rescues Noah. I liked the book but not its predictability.  You can reserve Akin at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.