Tag Archives: Michael Lavigne

Book Club Reflection: Not Me by Michael Lavigne

26 Nov

I’m always glad to go to a book club meeting and enjoy what my fellow readers have to say about a book I disliked. It’s usually eye-opening and sometimes changes my opinion of the book. I can’t say my mind has been swayed this time, but I have a bit more of an appreciation for the book now.

We started off with a question that I hadn’t thought to ask. When does this book take place? With each year, we have fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors around. We thought this book may be set a few years back, possibly 2000 or 2001. There was a Starbucks and Michael had a flip phone, so it seemed somewhat modern, but still a little dated.

It takes Michael the entirety of the book to start coming to terms with his father’s history and process the story in the journal. He’s a very self-absorbed character. At first, he doesn’t want to learn about his father. The distanced relationship the two have is comfortable for Michael, and he doesn’t want to leave it. He has a similar distance with his son, Josh. The relationship seemed to emphasize how self-centered Michael was. Maybe Heshel’s focus on his philanthropic endeavors kept his focus away from his son. Michael may have assumed such a relationship was normal and formed a similar one with his son. The first time we really see Michael do something for someone else is when he kills Karen and puts her out of her pain.

I wasn’t the only reader who questioned I the journals were factual. Because they’re written in a third-person, novel-like format, it seemed plausible that we’d get to the end of the book and Michael would discover they were from his father’s imagination. He finally believed it was all real when he read his mother’s letter. Writing in a third-person voice may have helped Heshel distance himself from the terrors he witnessed and committed.

We talked a lot about why Heshel made the change he did. He seemed to have a ‘come to God’ moment when he was in the hospital, realizing what he’d done to Moskovitz and feeling responsible for all the other crimes he’d committed. We questioned if he was a con artist his whole life, deceiving others to think he was a great, big-hearted man when his motivation was to make amends for his terrible actions. He felt that his daughter’s death was some form of retribution for his actions earlier. He was given accolades for his actions, but his motivation was far from honorable.

One of the loose ends that bugged us the most was Israel Rosenheim. We assumed he was the one who left the journals for Michael to read, assuming he’s real. We also guessed that Israel was the one visiting Heshel in the nursing home. This would have meant that Israel was in Florida so we wondered why Michael wouldn’t look for him.

This book had a lot of other loose ends. We guessed that Israel and Heshel had a long relationship because of references to money that had been paid to some unknown source. We guessed this was school payments of some sort. The relationship with April was a big question mark at the end. The relationship with Michael seemed superfluous. She seemed to be there just for Michael to find out his father brought orphans over from Europe. April being one of them was a bit too ‘clean,’ especially the way we found out. We all wished that April had been the one to leave the journals. That would have given us a lot more closure.

I didn’t leave this meeting liking the book anymore. I understood why some others may have liked it a lot, but it still wasn’t a book for me. We’re not meeting in December so it will be January when we have another one of these great talks.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Book Review: Not Me by Michael Lavigne (3/5)

12 Nov

I was skeptical of this one. It was a book club pick but I saw a low number of ratings on Goodreads. We usually pick rather popular novels so I was a bit surprised but tried to go in with an open mind.

Cover image via Goodreads

Not Me by Michael Lavigne

Summary from Goodreads:

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?

I liked the premise of this book and it shared elements with a manuscript I’m working on. I liked the mystery of it and the parallel plots between Heshel and Michael. But I felt this book started to fall apart toward the end. I was skeptical when I was 20 pages out because I suspected I was not going to get a clean ending to what was going on and I was right. I felt Michael had to make some wild assumptions to get to the conclusion he drew about his father and his secret life. It ruined the end of the book for me, though I wonder if the book club discussion will completely reverse my hostility.

Michael felt very real to me. He was distracted and angry which felt like very real emotions given his relationship with his father and where he was in life. He was confused and he did some odd things in his confusion that didn’t make sense to me but seemed to help him cope. I didn’t understand his clues or what he thought he’d find or how his wife and child connected to his father’s past. It was frustrating to read, but it felt real, like what someone would do when dealing with loss.

I didn’t particularly like any character in this book. I wanted to like April, but I didn’t understand what he role in the book was and I wasn’t sure why she was a part of the story. Michael was hard to understand and Heshel wasn’t really himself in either plotline. Perhaps that’s why I had trouble connecting to the book. I kind of wanted it to be over by the end.

Losing a family member is hard. I haven’t lost a parent but I’ve lost my grandfather. He went quickly, but my other grandparents are holding on tight and letting go slowly. I’m far away like Michael was from his father, and it’s hard to stay as close as you were when there’s distance. When I talk to my grandfather now, I know I’m talking to a shell of the man he used to be and it’s frustrating because I can tell he knows that. I could feel some of Michael’s pain but I pray I don’t have to experience it.

Michael Lavigne
Image via the author’s website

I liked the story in the journals best. I was much more invested in that story because I knew how the modern story was going to end. I wanted to see what changed in Heshel’s heart and what inspired it. I didn’t see the ending coming the way it did. Maybe that’s my ignorance of Isreal’s history. Either way, it kept me reading more than Michael.

Spoilers here so skip this paragraph if you want to avoid them. The ending frustrated me beyond reason. April came to nothing, which felt like poor writing. Even worse, I’m still confused about how Michael came to the conclusion he did. There was far too much left up in the air and they were things he could have investigated after his father passed. If there is an Israel Rosenheim, he can be looked up and found. Michael seemed set on his existence but had no motivation to follow-up. It felt rushed and lazy to me and it brought down my impression of the book.

We don’t get to choose our parents. We may not even like our parents. Sometimes their lives are mysteries to us. Is it what we don’t see that could make us like them? Heshel hid a lot from Michael. If he’d been more open, their relationship may have improved. But maybe not, maybe it would have been worse like when Heshel came clean to his wife. Learning something about a parent can change how you see them. Michael has to decide what to remember about his father.

Writer’s Takeaway: A rushed ending can be very tempting for a writer and this is a good example of how it can make a book fall apart. Even if he doesn’t want to believe it, the story in the journals was true and Michael has to face it. The way he decided to compartmentalize and justify his father’s actions bothered me. It felt unfinished and left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It was too convenient and left a lot of things still dangling.

A good story with a disappointing ending. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Not Me by Michael Lavigne | Court Reads
Gina’s Reading: Not Me by Michael Lavigne | Gina Lynette

WWW Wednesday, 7-November-2018

7 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently readingThe Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl should get attention again soon. Really, I swear! I want to get back to it soon and I’m feeling like I will. Eventually…
I’m past halfway in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a bit more violent than I was expecting for a children’s story, but I should know that censorship has changed since it was written.
I started reading Old School by Tobias Wolff, the next selection for one of my book clubs. It’s a slim book so I’m hoping I can finish it up quickly and get back to Poe! So far, so good. I’m hoping this is done by next week.
I also got to start a new eaudiobook, The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. This is another book club pick and I was beyond relieved to see it was offered as an eaudiobook because of its length! Over 700 pages and over 31 hours on audio. How perfect toward the end of the running season!
My hold on The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway came in and I started it on Sunday. It’s a nice change of pace to listen to short stories after having gone through some really long books. I hope I can continue to enjoy these.

Recently finished: I wrapped up Not Me by Michael Lavigne and will have a review up next week. I’m a little unsure what to think of it still. There were some big leaps in logic in my opinion and some very unnecessary plot elements that confused the message I got from it. Maybe it’s just not for me, maybe I missed something, and I for sure need my book club to help me figure it out.
I sped through That Night by Chevy Stevens and wrapped it up already. I haven’t read a thriller/mystery novel in a while and I need to remind myself to read one every once in a while. I really enjoyed the tension in Toni’s story and it kept me listening at every opportunity. Review for this one will be up next week, too.

My review of Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire went up on Monday. I really liked this book, but it just didn’t live up to my astronomically high expectations. No wonder. I gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: No plans right now. It’s a great feeling, really. I’ll see how long I can keep it up.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 31-October-2018 [Halloween Edition]

31 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently readingThe Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl looks so good on my bedside table. That’s a reason not to be reading it, right? I’ll get back to it soon…
I’m doing most of my reading of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson during lunch and it’s slow going, but it’s been fun. I’ll likely string this one out until the end of the year. Not by choice, just by slow reading habits.
I hope I can finish Not Me by Michael Lavigne this week. I’m not enjoying it as much as I did at first and I honestly want to finish it and get back to Pearl. I feel like there are too many questions and not enough answers. The main character is languishing, not moving and I’m a bit tired of it.
I was able to start That Night by Chevy Stevens on my phone and I’m using it as my car audiobook until another comes in. So far, It’s been a well-balanced mystery. I know what happened but I don’t. And I know what the future looks like, a bit. It’s muddled and fun so far!

Recently finished: I was able to finish A Column of Fire by Ken Follett on my way home from my swim meet on Saturday. It felt SO GOOD to call it done. I still have to return the huge audiobook to the library but I’m already imagining my car so much more empty. I’ll be writing a review for this next week.
I wrapped up A Night to Remember by Walker Lord, too. It was fun to revisit the Titanic after my trip to the Belfast museum this summer. I feel like a real nerd now. But I loved it. My review went up Monday so please check it out! I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I have my next audiobook on hold at the library and it will be The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway. I’m not usually a fan of short stories, but I am a fan of Hemingway. I think this one will work out well between the two.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 24-October-2018

24 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: Maybe I won’t get back to The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl as soon as I’d hoped. A girl can dream, right?
I’m SO CLOSE to finishing A Column of Fire by Ken Follett! It feels really amazing to be so close after so long. I think passengers in my car will appreciate not having the massive audiobook case in the seat!
I’m 25% through Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and I think I can push forward pretty quickly with it. It’s a fun book and every time I think it’s going to get dull, something changes that and I’m intrigued again.
I’m close to finishing A Night to Remember by Walker Lord as well. I love everything Titanic and this one has been fun to explore because it’s written before the wreck was found and things that were ‘known’ at the time have been disproved.
I’m enjoying Not Me by Michael Lavigne and trying to figure out what’s going on. I can tell there’s a big secret I’m not privy to but I can’t figure out what it could be. I like being kept guessing a little but I hope it doesn’t become any more than this.

Recently finished: After doing so well the past two weeks, it’s caught up with me. Nothing new this week. I think that will change again next week and I’ll finish the month strong! At least I can hope so.

I posted my review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch on Thursday. Thanks to the many of you who came back to check that out! I gave it 5/5 stars.

Reading Next: The plan is still for That Night by Chevy Stevens. I should easily be able to start it this week. Stevens is my maiden name so I feel attached to this writer!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 17-October-2018

17 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: It might be optimistic, but I think I can return to The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl soon! I’ve only got one more book standing in my way. The future is at hand!
Unsurprisingly, I’m still working through A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. I’m getting close now, only a normal-length audiobook to go!
I’m moving slowly through Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson but I think this will be faster than some of my other ebooks. It’s a lot shorter than I thought it would be, honestly. I double checked four times that I didn’t have the abridged version!
I began listening to A Night to Remember by Walker Lord on my phone. I love everything Titanic and I’m honestly surprised I didn’t have this on my radar earlier than I did. It’s a short one and I expect I’ll fly through it.
I began Not Me by Michael Lavigne on Friday. Not too far into it yet but I’ve had such a good run of print books that I’m optimistic that this one will go fast. too!

Recently finished: I finished two again! The first was The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz which was a phone audio. I was happy to wrap it up on my way home from school. It was a very satisfying ending for me and set up well for another one in the series! I gave it Four out of Five Stars and posted my review yesterday, check it out.
The second was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch which I flew through. I was skeptical for about the first 100 pages and then finished it in less than 24 hours. I’m yawning as I type this because I sacrificed a lot of sleep for this book. So worth it. A full Five out of Five Stars and my review will be up tomorrow.

I also posted my review of Artemis by Andy Weir last Friday. It wasn’t The Martian, but it was good. I’ll expect good things from Weir in the future. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: It seems too optimistic to think about finishing yet another book this week. If I do, it will probably be an eaudiobook and next will probably be That Night by Chevy Stevens. This book haunted me for a while before I found it on clearance when a Barnes and Nobel closed and decided to buy it. We’ll see how it goes.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 10-October-2018

10 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I see The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl sitting on my bedside table every night. I want to finish it soon. Let’s see if I can.
I’m still in love with A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. The separate plots and characters are coming together now and it’s been so cool to see everything work together toward what I’m assuming will be an amazing ending. I don’t want this to end!
I made great progress with The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz this week and should finish it up really soon! I’m enjoying this as much as the original trilogy and I hope Lagercrantz keeps it going.
Since I finished Artemis, I was able to start Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I hope I can sprint through this one as quickly! I’m on a hot reading streak lately.
I working on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson as my ebook now. This will fulfill yet another time period for my When Are You Reading? Challenge which means I’m in the middle of three books to finish that off! Let’s just hope I can polish them off before the end of the year.

Recently finished: I wrapped up Bel Canto by Ann Patchett during lunch last week. The ending had me a little puddle of emotions that was not ready to jump into four straight interviews. I think the movie will make me cry. This will be a good one. My review went up yesterday so please go check that out!
I spent most of Saturday in bed resting and reading Artemis by Andy Weir. It was a quick read, much like The Martian and I enjoyed it. My review will be up tomorrow. It felt good to get through a book so fast!

I posted my review of The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert on Monday and them promptly went to my book club on the book that evening. Look for the book club reflection coming soon. It was an interesting book to put it lightly. To be honest, I really disliked it!

Reading Next: Another book club read to block me from reading Poe! I’ll be starting Not Me by Michael Lavigne next. I’m not sure how we came to select this one as there’s not much about it on our library site and it looks like it won’t be one I can audiobook. Darn.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!