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Not Me


Not Me Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. How does the nature of memory play an important part in this story? What traps and opportunities does memory create for Michael and for the people around him?

2. Discuss the role of place setting in this novel and in fiction in general. How, and why, are places “characters,” and how does place affect you personally?

3. What kind of person is Heinrich? Do you know any people like him? Could you be such a person?

4. What feelings are aroused in you by the descriptions of the concentration camps and by Heinrich/Heshels role in the murder of thousands?

5. Why do you think the author opted to make Heinrich a bookkeeper as opposed to a Nazi soldier?

6. Hannah Arendt created the phrase “the banality of evil,” referring to Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Nazi death camp system, and those like Eichmann who commit unspeakable acts under the guise of “just doing their job.” Does Heinrich fit that description?

7. Do you think it plausible for a person to change as dramatically as Heinrich/Heshel did? Is it plausible that someone like Heinrich could find salvation by embodying the nature of his enemy?

8. What is the role of God in this novel?

9. Everyone tells lies. Why do we lie to ourselves and others? What secret knowledge do we all carry with us? Consider a time in your life when you have been unsure whether to reveal or to conceal an important truth, and had to choose between “the truth shall set you free” and “what they dont know wont hurt them.” How did you resolve it?

10. Every family has secrets. What are the effects of family secrets and how do they affect Michaels life? How have they affected yours? What happens when they are uncovered?

11. Part of the plot structure of this novel is in the form of a mys­tery or detective story. Is it successful in sustaining an aura of sus­pense until the novels conclusion? Do you feel the mystery of Heshels identity has been solved? Why or why not?

12. Is guilt what drives Heshel Rosenheim? If so, what is the true nature of that guilt? If not, what is it that drives him? Do you think guilt itself can be a conduit to redemption?

13. If Heshel Rosenheim is indeed Heinrich Mueller, do you think his son should be able to forgive him? Could you forgive him? Can the good that Heshel/Heinrich has done in his life make up for the bad? What is the role of good works in the balance sheet of redemption?

14. Michaels relationship with his sister is unique within the novel for its purity and wholesomeness-yet it is this relationship that pushes Michael to commit a terrible crime, and become, in essence, like the man in the journals. What are the moral implica­tions for Michael, for causing destruction in the name of love?

15. The relationships between fathers and sons in this novel are ambiguous and complex. In what ways do they disagree on how to live their lives? Which of the generational disagreements would you attribute to historical change, and which to individual char­acter differences?

16. April Love is a mysterious woman who keeps popping up in the oddest places, including in bed with a man ten years her jun­ior. What does she represent to you? Why did the author bring her into the story?

Product Details

Lavigne, Michael
Random House Trade
LaVigne, Michael
Domestic fiction
Jewish fiction.
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
fiction;holocaust;historical fiction
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.94x5.30x.76 in. .56 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Contemporary Thrillers

Not Me Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$3.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812973327 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Melodrama lurks at the edges of this ambitious debut, occasionally crossing the line; still, it's crisply written and never less than engaging."
"Review" by , "By forcing us to not simply succumb to the allure of the reprobate, but to care, Lavigne has achieved a not inconsiderable accomplishment."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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?"
"Synopsis" by , 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.
"Synopsis" by , US
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