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Not Meby Michael Lavigne
Synopses & Reviews
Not Me is a remarkable debut novel that tells the dramatic and surprising stories of two men — father and son — through sixty years of uncertain memory, distorted history, and assumed identity.
When Heshel Rosenheim, apparently suffering from Alzheimer's disease, hands his son, Michael, a box of moldy old journals, an amazing adventure begins — one that takes the reader from the concentration camps of Poland to an improbable love story during the battle for Palestine, from a cancer ward in New Jersey to a hopeless marriage in San Francisco. The journals, which seem to tell the story of Heshel's life, are so harrowing, so riveting, so passionate, and so perplexing that Michael becomes obsessed with discovering the truth about his father.
As Michael struggles to come to grips with his father's elusive past, a world of complex and disturbing possibilities opens up to him — a world in which an accomplice to genocide may have turned into a virtuous Jew and a young man cannot recall murdering the person he loves most; a world in which truth is fiction and fiction is truth and one man's terrible — or triumphant — transformation calls history itself into question. Michael must then solve the biggest riddle of all: Who am I?
Intense, vivid, funny, and entirely original, Not Me is an unsparing and unforgettable examination of faith, history, identity, and love.
"Buried beneath ill-advised metaphors (a revelatory journal 'was glued to my fingers, like when you touch something really cold, like an ice cube or a metal pole...') and a clunky structure is a provocative debut novel that might have said something profound about growing up in the home of Holocaust survivors. Michael Rosenheim, a divorced stand-up comic, is caring for his Alzheimer's-afflicted father when he discovers 24 volumes of his father's journals. In them, Heshel Rosenheim has detailed (in the form of a novel) that he is not a concentration camp survivor, but a former Nazi accountant at Bergen-Belsen who has posed as a Jew since the end of WWII. The novel flips back and forth between Heshel's story and Michael's attempts to prove it real; Lavigne mixes in subplots about Michael's relationship with his son, his pining for his ex-wife, and his sister's slow, painful death from cancer. The diary sections hold the most sway, and the novel would have been better served had Lavigne kept the present-day story as little more than a frame surrounding the account of how one man transformed himself from SS officer to pillar of the New Jersey Jewish community. Lavigne's book has tremendous potential for drama, but it avoids telling the story at its heart. Agent, Michael Carlisle. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"First novelist Lavigne deals with the nature of memory realistically, as reading the journal helps Michael recall details long forgotten or blocked from his mind. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Melodrama lurks at the edges of this ambitious debut, occasionally crossing the line; still, it's crisply written and never less than engaging." Kikrus Reviews
"By forcing us to not simply succumb to the allure of the reprobate, but to care, Lavigne has achieved a not inconsiderable accomplishment." San Francisco Chronicle
"What a daring, even dangerous, act of the imagination this novel is! Not Me challenges one emotionally and intellectually. It's that rare phenomenon: a philosophical thriller that will draw you in and leave you arguing furiously with yourself after you're done." Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler
"A novel with a powerfully unsettling moral conundrum at its heart: Is radical evil indelible; can anything undo it? But what philosophy cannot resolve, storytelling triumphantly can. Lavigne's radiantly imagined portrait of human possibility never obscures the blackest abyss of real history, and his Heshel Rosenheim emerges with all the complexity of a modern Raskolnikov." Cynthia Ozick, author of Heir to the Glimmering World
"Michael Lavigne has an immensely powerful story to tell of guilt and redemption. Beyond its riveting plot, Not Me is a novel about the loss and recovery of love. In this sense it reminded me of Dickens's Great Expectations: Heshel Rosenheim is as mysterious and haunting as Magwitch, and the lesson that his uncanny life imparts to his son, and to Lavigne's readers, is on a grand human scale, and unforgettable." Jonathan Wilson, author of A Palestine Affair
"Family secrets, awful historical truths, the nature of good and evil, and the bond between a son and his father are woven seamlessly into a page-turning plot. Michael Lavigne writes with generosity of heart and he leaves the reader with an abundance of hope. Not Me is a powerful debut novel." Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of An Almost Perfect Moment
"A disturbing yet surprisingly tender read that grips the reader from page 1 and never lets go. Michael Lavigne tells his intriguing story with intelligence, sensitivity, and flashes of scintillating wit. What more could you ask from a novel?" Aaron Hamburger, author of Faith for Beginners
Dealing with universal questions surrounding identity, forgiveness, and unconditional love, Not Me is the heart wrenching story of a son who learns in his father's final hours that the devoutly Jewish man may have actually been a Nazi.
About the Author
Michael Lavigne was born in Newark, New Jersey. He began seriously writing fiction only at midlife and was a participant of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Not Me is his first novel, and he is currently working on his second, set in Moscow, where he once lived. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Gayle.
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