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Not Me: A Novel



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Editorial Reviews


Advance praise for Not Me

“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….

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Additional information




Random House; Reprint edition February 13 2007

Publication date

February 13 2007



File size

720 KB



Screen Reader


Enhanced typesetting



Not Enabled

Word Wise


Print length

296 pages


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10 reviews for Not Me: A Novel

  1. Alex Shapiro

    A powerful reading on the Jewish issue which is, alas, not available in the Hebrew edition.After finishing reading this book I was in the state of shock, as like after reading a good and powerful book. I consider it to be one of my favorite books I have read in the last ten years. One thing surprises me though: it has been translated in many languages, but not in Hebrew, even though it deals with the Jewish subject. On several occasions, while traveling to Israel, I was asking at their central book stores if they have a Hebrew edition of it, to buy it to my friends who do not read English. And each time, after giving me a negative answer, the clerks often would wonder why I’m so anxious to get it. After explaining what it was about, they then asked me for the correct English name and the name of its author while telling that they would definitely order it from Amazon.

  2. Cinthia Ritchie

    Bittersweet and haunting story about the intersection of truth, forgiveness and redemptionWow, I couldn’t stop reading this engrossing story about a man examining his own life, and his father’s life, as his father lies dying in a nursing home. The beginning is light, even funny at times, but as the story unfolds it becomes darker and bleaker, and yet Lavigne wisely inserts little pockets of humor because, face it, we always seek humor in our lives, and the more heavily we fall, the more we need it.The story revolves around a son’s quest to discover his who his father really is. Is he the outstanding Jewish man he always assumed his father to be? Or is he a German war criminal who worked in various concentration camps as an accountant, carefully tracking each shoe, each gold filling, each watch taken from Jewish victims?Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Michael Rosenheim is a comic who admits that he’s only funny because he’s sad. He’s divorced and has one son, who lives back in San Francisco with his ex-wife. Rosenheim is in Florida, caring for his dying father, whom he knows as Heshel Rosenheim, though he’s most likely his father is really Heinrich Mueller.Michael Rosenheim learns this through reading old notebooks given to him by his father (who also has dementia, by the way). The notebook entries are fascinating from a historical perspective, though they begin to drag by the middle, when readers could easily become overly-eager for the story to unfold, to move faster. We want to know who the father really is and if forgiveness or redemption is ever possible.And this is the question of the book: Can we forgive the ones we love for being who they are? Can we forgive them for their pasts? Their mistakes? Their blind and ugly truths?It’s a bittersweet story, and it leaves a lot of questions unanswered in the end, yet this somehow seems right. It seems perfect, actually.I highly recommend “Not Me.”

  3. Pamela Bell

    ID MeltdownThis is a thoughtfully conceived novel about identity, guilt and recreating oneself to ultimate redemption. Towards the end of WW11, an SS administrator changes his identity to save himself and he remains in that identity for the rest of his life to keep hidden. His new persona opposes all his original beliefs. The novel alternates between this man’s journal story and his son’s reaction to reading his father’s story. In turn, the son experiences his own identity crisis, particularly since he is already going through turmoil due to a family split-up. This book is a complex achievement which challenges the reader on a philosophical level to think about humanity’s worst flaws, the capacity for forgiveness, plus the helplessness we have in controlling where ours lives go and in deciding whether we should love the unlovable or not.

  4. John M. Wilson

    A little too clutteredAn interesting and promising premise: discovering oneself, reluctantly, through one’s own father’s diary. The narrator/protagonist threads his way through his father’s devious past from the Holocaust to Israel to America, surviving as a Nazi collaborator, German Jewish refugee, opportunistic Arab impersonator on the way to becoming a secular Jew. What is real and what is true in the diary, and what is the son’s own identity in relation to his own son, his ex-wife, his dead sister, his mother, and the Jewish community he lives in. The story does not entirely escape improbability, nor does it quite reach the level of allegory. Underdeveloped or irrelevant characters clutter the progress toward the protagonist’s enlightenment. I found it difficult to develop any empathy with any of the characters, except the son of the narrator whose part is very small. I think the author is aiming to pose compassion as a human dilemma; but, for me, the story is a little too cluttered to put the reader square in that place.

  5. Amazon Customer

    Not as good as I had hopedI read a lot of WWII books and the description of this book really caught my attention. The Father in this book is an accountant and works in a concentration camp. Fearing the end is near, he shaves his head, tattoos himself and pretends he is one of the Jews needing saving from this camp. What an interesting story line…..I just wish the rest of the book could have been as interesting. The book had no likeable characters in it and ended with too many unresolved issues for my liking. All in all it was “OK” book at best. I was very intrigued by this story line, but felt it fell short in many ways. I will likely not seek out more books by this author.

  6. Happy & Satisfied

    Amazing.I expected I would not like this book as I usually avoid something like this subject.It is a book a member of my book club picked. And I am glad she did pick it. The writing is excellent and the author mange’s to go from current time to the past again in a very clear way. This book will stay with me for a long time.

  7. Shel10

    Good ReadGood story with a predictable, but unusual plot. An unusual story, but once plot is revealed, the end is predictable. The mystery of who was providing the diary was not well developed. They story provides hope that an individual who was part of terrible events can turn their life into something good.

  8. Kindle Customer

    Excellent readThis is the best book I have read this year. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in the holocaust, and will be reading more from this author.

  9. Sarah

    Great readReally enjoyed reading this book, well written. Insightful. Challenging in a good way. I recommend it and felt a deepening understanding of the main characters as the book progressed

  10. M. E. Brewster

    Five StarsA good copy and arrived on the advertised date.

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