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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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 (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Great idea
Posted February 19, 2010 by Toni , Firestone, COThis was an amazing idea for a book a Nazi war criminal who completely turned his life around to be a high standing Jewish man. The story is not that exciting however, and the main character seems a little whinny. It was a great idea, it just missed the mark.
Random House Trade Paperbacks
October 31, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Not Me by Michael Lavigne
The last person in the world I wanted to know about was my father. I did not want to know if he had lovers. I did not want to know if he took diuretics. I certainly did not want to know if he liked to masturbate, or if, even occasionally, he fantasized about teenage boys. It was of absolutely no interest to me if he cheated at bridge, or if his secret ambition was to become a ballet dancer, or if he had an obsession with women's shoes, or if he washed his body with lemon, or if he hit my mother (especially, God forbid, if she liked it). So when I was presented with twenty-four volumes of journals, each bound with a rubber band so old it was as brittle as the leather cover it held together, and was told, "These are your father's, take them," I was less than enthusiastic. Especially since it was my father who gave them to me.
"These are your father's," he said, "take them."
"Dad," I said, "you are my father."
He looked at me quizzically. His eyes were like aspic. Cloudy. Beneath which something obscure, unappetizing.
"Where's Karen?" he asked.
"Karen is dead," I reminded him.
"That's not true," he said. "She was just here. I was speaking to her. Take these."
With his feet, he pushed the box of journals toward my chair.
"All right," I said, "I'll take them. But I won't read them."
Then he turned away, and looked out the window.
"I'm waiting for Frau Hellman," he said.
"Okay, Dad," I said. I had no idea who Frau Hellman was. Maybe someone from his childhood, or maybe his name for the lady who washed him.
After a little while I realized he had forgotten I was in the room. The space between us seemed to grow as if I were standing on a dock, and he were sailing away on the Queen Mary. I say the Queen Mary because he once actually did sail away on her, and I really was left behind, waving. Still, it was unthinkable that I would have a troubled relationship with my father. If I was not the perfect son, he was certainly the perfect father.
I reminded myself of that as I sat there looking at him drooling, his head lolling back like a toddler's asleep in his car seat.
"He's doing just great, isn't he?" the station nurse said. "We just love him!"
I held out the box to her. "Where did he get these? They weren't in his room before."
"I don't know. I think someone brought them."
"Who brought them?"
"He has so many visitors."
"You know how popular he is!"
Actually, I didn't know he knew anybody. I thought everybody he knew was dead. I thanked Nurse Clara--her name was emblazoned on her ample, nurturing breast--and walked out into the brutal Florida heat. The car was only a few steps away, but I might as well have been crossing the Amazon River. By the time I got there, my shirt was soaked and my legs were sticking together. I turned on the air-conditioning in the Caddy, but had to wait outside for the temperature to drop--the car was an oven. In my arms was the box of journals. They weighed me down painfully. Finally I sank into the plush leather seat and let the frigid jets cool my face, my underarms. I tugged my shirt away from my body to let the air caress my stomach with its icy fingers. I sighed in relief. I put the shift in reverse, and pulled out of the spot. It's amazing how long a Caddy will last, particularly if you never drive it. Dad bought his in '78. I looked down at the odometer. It had twenty-two thousand miles on it. And I had to admit it was comfortable, bobbing down the road on those marshmallow shocks, riding on tires of Jell-O. Like the kiddy-car rides he used to take me on before I graduated to the bumper cars and roller coasters.