A Novel

Book - 2019 | First Canadian edition
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Noah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Though he has never met the boy, he gets talked into taking him along to France. This odd couple, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, argue about everything from steak hache to screen time, and the trip is looking like a disaster. But as Michael's sharp eye and ease with tech help Noah unearth troubling details about their family's past, both of them come to grasp the risks that loved ones take for one another, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Publisher: Toronto, Ontario, Canada :, HarperCollinsPublishersLtd,, [2019]
Edition: First Canadian edition
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9781443458948
Branch Call Number: FIC DONOG E


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Jan 13, 2020

Donoghue's novel reads like a true story---very effective. It is about a 79 year-old man (Noah Selvaggio) and his great-nephew (Michael Young) who is 11. This is a story about a man whose wife and sister have died (one, 10 years ago, the other, 1 year ago), leaving him, practically, the last member of his family still leaving. He is a retired college chemistry professor who lives in NYC and has so much knowledge about nearly everything--brilliant! But, Noah is "just" living now, nothing new, nothing not known, nothing to look forward to experiencing. So, Noah books a trip to Nice, France, to celebrate his 80th birthday; this is where he lived up to the age of 4 when his mom sent him to America to be with his father; two years later, his mom joined them in America. Noah has some pictures his mom had taken during WWII, possibly, while Noah was in America sans his mother. Then he is contacted by Children's Services and informed that his great-nephew Michael needs a home, at least temporarily, and Noah is the only person in the state who could take him or Michael will be put into "the system" and a group home. Michael's dad who was Noah's only nephew, apparently, died of a drug overdose at the age of 26; Michael's mom is in prison for 5 years for, supposedly, drug dealing. SO, Noah and Michael, over the course of the novel, fly to Nice and return to NYC a week later. During this time, these two clash over everything: culture of the past vs today, exotic food vs junk food, books vs video games, jokes when Noah was a kid vs jokes Michael's age group make, etc. In the end, it is a toss up as to who grows the most, Noah or Michael. But, this week-long trip creates or develops a relationship, albeit an unstable one, between the two.

The only reason I gave the book 3 stars out of 4 is the foul language. Just about every time Michael speaks, he uses foul language. At first I think it is to shock the old Noah; but after a while, it seems to be second nature to Michael, how he talks. Michael is a sad character because he seems so alone and cursing shockingly is his way to scream, to say "I exist; please notice me." I want Noah, who has never been a parent nor around kids much at all, to do something, to make Michael stop cursing, being rude. I guess as a retired educator, I want Michael to listen to his elder and to honor what he says. Michael doesn't seem to respect anyone but his peers, his deceased grandmother (on his mother's side), and his mom and dad.
The foul language just becomes a distractor for me. It distracts me from the brillance of the novel.

Nov 24, 2019

The juxtaposition of an 80 year old ex professor and his 11 year old street smart nephew leads to clever discourse and wit with doses of the reality of the gaps in generations. They are thrown together just as Noah is planning a trip back in time to find out the truth about his mother during Nazi occupation of France. Paced well and interesting enough.

Nov 09, 2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will probably read it again. An octogenarian widower about to embark on a farewell and fact-finding mission to his childhood home of Nice is sidelined when Children’s Services effectively foist his grieving, troubled and belligerent 11 year old great nephew into his care. Bon voyage! The ensuing overseas adventures of this odd couple are at once cringeworthy, hilarious and heartbreaking. Donoghue captures the characters beautifully. She skillfully bears witness to many painful realities in the lives of the oppressed, and the importance of faith in family over everything. The audiobook was well narrated. Highly recommend.

Nov 07, 2019

The child in this story was rude and undisciplined. Having a bad childhood does not give one the right to act out. The 80-year-old man excuses the boy for his behavior because of his life circumstances. The child treated him like dirt. The 80-year-old did not have an easy childhood going from France to the U.S. during WW2.

Oct 21, 2019

soon to be octogenarian trying to understand his past and an eleven year old with a most uncertain future end up traveling together based on a tenuous family link. somewhat predictable that a bond will develop? yes, but donoghue has such an easy flow to her writing. one day I'll break down and tackle 'room.'

DCLadults Oct 10, 2019

A New & Noteworthy pick. Noah, a newly retired professor, and his young great-nephew are unexpectedly thrown together on a trip to the French Riviera. The old man and the boy will discover troubling details of Noah’s mother’s past in Nazi-occupied France as they unravel a family mystery.

ArapahoeAnnaL Oct 01, 2019

Sentence by lovely sentence Donoghue brings the two main characters to life: an elderly retired professor and a bright rambunctious preteen, Michael, from a poor family whose mother is in prison for selling drugs. The characters are so vivid, compelling, and somehow familiar. It's a pleasure to watch as this mismatched pair go back and forth, struggling with each other and supporting each other. There are also two mysteries: what role did the professor’s mother play in WWII France, collaborator or resister. And what is the truth about the crime for which Michael’s mother has gone to prison. The professor muses about our responsibilities to each other and of one generation to the next. The ending of this gorgeous book brought me to tears.

Sep 28, 2019

An engaging book, though not as stunning as “Room”. Recommended.

Aug 29, 2019

An almost 80-year-old man makes the trip of a lifetime to Nice, France, with an 11-year-old boy. Noah is a retired professor and the boy (Michael) is his great-nephew and desperately in need of a home while his mother is in prison. In addition to the great conversations they have attempting to bridge the conversation gap, there is a mystery involving a set of snapshots that were taken by Noah's mother during WW II. Noah and Michael have an unusual chemistry together and I loved following about their adventures in Nice. I couldn't help but think of Mr. Bean's Holiday!

debwalker Aug 27, 2019

A retired New York professor's life is thrown into chaos when he takes a young great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother's wartime secrets - Goodreads. Seems like everyone who went through WW2 had plenty of secrets.


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ArapahoeAnnaL Oct 01, 2019

Weren't all of us bridges for each other, one way or another? Just a few years, fingers crossed, till Amber got out of prison. It wasn't a matter of Noah planting any olive trees, at this point, just watering one sapling, attempting to shield it from hard winds.

And then it struck him that it was really the other way around. This boy was saving Noah. rescuing him from the trap of habit, the bleak tedium of counting down the years of his retirement. Michael was the little ark, crazily bobbing, in which one lucky old man could go voyaging.

"Did it exist a hundred years ago?" "Maybe," the boy said, pressing buttons.

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