Michael Lavigne has written a brave and courageous first novel. Cynthia Ozick calls it “radiantly imagined” and Ron Rosenbaum terms it “a daring, even dangerous act of the imagination”. Lavigne confronts some rather incendiary and critical moral issues in this book and he does so with great skill and a fair dose of levity. One might not think of the term levity in discussing a novel of the Holocaust but Lavigne manages to impart some here though never at the expense of the moral questions he raises or his carefully drawn and crafted characters.
Not Me tells the story of Michael, his father Hershel,suffering from Alzheimer’s and dying of cancer, and the journals he gives to Michael at the end of his life . Through the journals, Michael begins to learn the truth about his father and finally the truth about himself, as a son and a man. The story the journals tell take us from the concentration camps of Poland, to Israel during the battle for Palestine and to New Jersey. The novel alternates between the text of the journals and Michael’s efforts to make sense of them and the life he has lived as Hershel’s son. Always suspenseful, intensely original and elegantly moving, Lavigne reminds us there is nothing we shouldn’t try to fathom and understand and especially about the power of redemption that exists for all of us.