This short haunting novel by an acclaimed Israeli writer tells the story of a couple unable to conceive who adopt a child from an orphanage at one day old. We read about the perspectives of the birth parents, the adopted parents, and their son, Emile. The chapters are named for each of the five characters, and sometimes two or three together as we are privy to their innermost thoughts. The birth parents are never named; interestingly they are only represented as ( ) and ( ). The story goes back and forth in time and includes the adoption of Emile, the accidental death of the adoptive mother, Leah, the adoptive father Yoel’s attempt to give back the adult Emile to his unwilling birth parents, Emile’s school days and army induction, and other points in Emile’s and Yoel’s lives. Incomplete sentences, wandering thoughts, and nightmares create a surreal sense of disconnection. It is difficult to tell what is real and what is a dream. The story revolves around fate, loss, loneliness, emotional control, and lack of communication. Yoel is defined by his struggle with being left alone with Emile. There are few moments of warmth between the characters. Black and white photos and line drawings offer a respite from the darkness of Kin, though no further enlightenment. I was compelled to continue reading this story through to the end, wishing for a sense of hope, but it left me bewildered.
Related: The Hebrew Literature Series at Dalkey Archive Press