Reviews & Awards

Reviews for THE WANTING

 Honored by a full-page review in the NY Times Sunday Review of Books just days after publication and a NY Times Editor’s Choice, here is what early reviewers are saying about  THE WANTING: 

“Lavigne succeeds triumphantly…. The Wanting becomes thrilling, right up until its devastating last page, and it is a testament to Lavigne’s immense skills as a writer that we close it and still feel shock-wave reverberations for some time after.” — Malcolm Forbes, Jewish Renaissance

“Michael Lavigne has chosen the dying days of that era — the mid-1990s — as the setting for his ambitious novel about the yearning for homeland and spiritual fulfillment. His central characters — a ­Russian-Israeli architect and his 13-year-old daughter; a Palestinian youth and his father — are linked in ways both conscious and unconscious, haunting and invading one another’s spaces, plotting with words and bombs and, occasionally, understanding one another as only familiar enemies can….Lavigne knows how to evoke the volatile quest for meaning that affects so many in the Holy Land. As Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Jerusalem once suggested to me, taking the universe personally is “part of the thrill of living here, although it is also suffocating and overwhelming.” It is just this kind of ambivalence that animates this mournful book.” — Ethan Bronner, NY Times

“Lavigne, a Jew, sympathetically portrays the convoluted, morally ambiguous environments these rudderless characters strive to navigate and builds up an intense narrative drive. He presents no easy answers to their problems and neither does he beat the drum for any ideal. All three of his main characters are portrayed fully and sympathetically, and the voices of Anyusha and Amir are especially life-like. It’s a complicated story with no clear path for anyone — just like the locale in which it’s set. Lavigne is a careful and talented writer and this is a fine follow-up to his acclaimed first novel, Not Me.” — Michel Basiliéres, Toronto Star

“Lavigne’s heartfelt examination offers what reportage never could: an intensely intimate and human depiction of the forces that unite and powerfully divide this region and its people.” –– Publishers Weekly

“In this exquisite novel of longing and loss, Lavigne has woven multiple stories of intersecting lives and conflicting desires. From the snowy streets of communist Moscow to the scorching heat of a Palestinian-controlled desert, we travel with characters teetering on the edge of madness, at once ruined and resilient, some idealistic, others world-weary—all pursuing that most essential but elusive want: a place to call home. A beautiful meditation on love, and on all the ways in which stories are remembered and told.”  –Dalia Sofer,  author of The Septembers of Shiraz

“Michael Lavigne wites like an angel. And like a devil. Indeed he writes so well that it isn’t always possible to tell wich is which. His ability to give wild imaginings a concrete immediacy, a human warmth and plausibility, is the rarest of writerly gifts.” — Jonathan Rosen, author of Joy Comes In the Morning and Eve’s Apple

From a profile in the J Weekly. “When drafting his new novel, “The Wanting,” San Francisco writer Michael Lavigne made a challenging matrix for himself. His tale spans decades, takes place in Russia, Israel and the West Bank, and boasts three narrators, each with a different ethnic and linguistic background. And one of those narrators is a Palestinian suicide bomber. It’s no surprise Lavigne would up the ante like that. His debut novel, “Not Me,” won a prestigious Jewish book prize, the 2007 Sami Rohr Choice Award for emerging Jewish writers, launching his writing career in spectacular fashion. That novel also featured multiple narrators, including a Nazi. With both books, Lavigne had to get inside the head of someone he would despise in real life… “Read the full article…

“From the first sentence of Michael Lavigne’s “The Wanting” (Schocken), you are gripped by a tension that is sustained throughout the novel…. Lavigne accomplishes the difficult task of generating sympathy and understanding of each character. Amir’s odyssey following the bombing is an extraordinarily concrete, grounded magical realism. Anna is irresistible in her smartness, her adolescence and her attempts to confront the pressures bearing down on her….  One of the hallmarks of the novel is its specificity: whether describing Moscow, Jerusalem, or a Tel Aviv suburb, Lavigne has a very strong sense of place. I found myself close to consulting Google maps as Roman makes his way to the Negev or Anna traverses the Old City. Lavigne exhibits such intimacy with each community, it seemed impossible that I wasn’t reading a translation from Hebrew. The writing is consistently beautiful and while you want to linger over the language, the tension and pace of the tale propel you forward.” — Sharon Anstey, New York Jewish Week

Reviews for NOT ME

Winner of the coveted Sami Rohr Choice Award, an American Library Association Sophie Brodie Honor Book, a Book of the Month Club Alternate and translated in Europe and South America, here is what reviewers have to say about  NOT ME: 

“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

“Lavigne carves a new portal into the depthless mystery of the Holocaust, writing insightfully and imaginatively about the survival instinct and the thorny love between fathers and sons in a debut even more accomplished than Nicole Krauss’ much-hailed Holocaust novel The History of Love (2005)…. profoundly complex moral dilemmas in a vivid, all-consuming, paradoxical, and quintessentially human story.” –– Booklist, Donna Seaman, Starred Review

““The premise of Lavigne’s debut novel is nothing short of brilliant…. Stunned by his father’s masquerade, Michael is unable to corroborate the diaries’ allegations: His mother is dead and his father disappears deeper every day into the fog of Alzheimer’s. As the novel shifts back and forth between the diaries and Michael’s horrified re-evaluations, it builds into a gripping meditation about the fluidity of identity. Avoiding every gimmicky pitfall, Lavigne’s tale has poignancy, real philosophical depth, and a thrilling momentum.” -Baltimore Sun

“…crisply written and never less than engaging” — Kirkus Review

“A disturbing and important meditation on the question of identity.  But NOT ME is more than that.  It’s a pleasure to read.  The suspense is there on every page.” –-Arnon Grunberg, author of Blue Mondays and Phantom Pain

“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

“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 and Hester Among the Ruins

“A disturbing yet surprisingly tender read that grips the reader from page one 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?” —Aaron Hamburger, author of Faith for Beginners and The View from Stalin’s Head

“…Michael Lavigne’s compelling Not Me is a high-concept mystery that plies the lines between villain and victim, between evil and the pain evil produces.”–Zeek

“A brilliant and original novel dealing with a father and son, the Jewish Holocaust, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Lavigne creates a compelling tale, which is both darkly humorous and deeply compelling.” –Shelf Life

“Lavigne has achieved a not inconsiderable accomplishment.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“In his examination of identity, Lavigne raises issues ranging from adoption to Zionism, euthanasia to ennui. Despite its beguiling wit…this remarkably original novel was no doubt written in anguish in order to process the Holocaust and share some thoughts — many of them very interesting and painfully honest.”  – The J