The Autobiography of God A Novel

Julius Lester

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

256 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

This novel presents the story of Rebecca Nachman, a Rabbi without a synagogue. Having resigned from her dwindling congregation, she now works as a counselor at a small Vermont college, advising students about private matters and offering the "Jewish perspective" at faculty dinner parties.

Deeply lonely and on the edge of losing her faith, she comes into possession of a Torah, the last relic of Czechowa, a village of Polish Jews who were exterminated by the Nazis. With the Torah, the unquiet spirits of the village dead begin to visit Rebecca. On one visit they leave a manuscript written in Hebrew and titled My Life, an autobiography by God—who, like any eager author, is seeking a sympathetic reader. No one has ever finished reading the manuscript, including Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Maimonides, and Augustine. God thinks Rebecca will.

Our heroine's life is further complicated when one of her advisees—a troubled young woman who seemed on the verge of confessing something—is found murdered. As the college struggles to comprehend the tragedy and a police investigation is launched, Rebecca begins reading the manuscript, and so comes to confront the central challenge to her faith in His most troubling and unlikely incarnation.


Praise for The Autobiography of God

"A profoundly moral, philosophical, and readable novel. A literary journey that seeks to comprehend the mysteries of God in this post-Holocaust age."—Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham and Second Hand Smoke

"Kudos to Julius Lester for breaking down the boundary between the theologically meaningful and the creatively fantastical."—The Jerusalem Post

"The manifestations of true evil are explored in this skillfully crafted novel about a contemporary woman's search for God. Failed rabbi Rebecca works as a psychological counselor at a small liberal arts college in Vermont. A daughter of Holocaust survivors, she is haunted by the murdered Jews of a Polish community whose rescued Torah she keeps in her home. Rebecca is beautiful but damaged, and she finds it difficult to make friends with her colleagues, taking refuge in solitude. However, when a coed is murdered, members of the college community look to Rebecca for understanding. She, in turn, begins a dialogue with God, questioning why so much pure evil exists. Lester, who has written so movingly of his own life's search for meaning (in Lovesong: Becoming a Jew), makes Rebecca the symbol of all good people who search for spiritual meaning in a hate-filled world. But she is also a fully fleshed, living human being. This engrossing and powerful novel is recommended."—Library Journal

"Lester, author of the critically acclaimed novel Do Lord Remember Me and the memoir Lovesong, melds the classic college mystery with deeply theological ruminations on suffering and death. Rebecca Nachman is a former rabbi whose emotional failures in relating to the members of her synagogue cause her to seek refuge in a small college community in northern Vermont, where she works as a therapist. When one student who had come to her for counseling is found strangled in Boston, Rebecca chastises herself for failing to see signs of trouble and realizes she knows the identity of the killer. But the murder mystery is only a subplot in a larger, much more compelling story of theodicy. When Rebecca, the child of Holocaust survivors, comes to possess a Torah scroll that the Nazis stole from a shtetl in 1944, she becomes the 'rabbi' of the village's dead, whose spirits visit her each night to say Kaddish. Lester's use of magical realism takes a masterful turn when God himself begins visiting Rebecca, anxious for her to read his autobiography (which has been rejected by the likes of Maimonides, Akiba, and Augustine) and know the truth about him—that he is lonely, morally ambivalent, and fascinated with evil . . . The real mystery of this novel—the mercurial nature of God—is richly absorbing."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

The Autobiography of God


It had arrived.
Rebecca placed the receiver in the cradle of the phone as if returning a keenly honed sword to its velvet-lined case. She slumped back in the office chair...

Read the full excerpt


  • Julius Lester

  • Julius Lester is the author of over 30 books for children and adults, for which he has received numerous awards, including a Newbery Honor and a Smithsonian Magazine Best Book of the Year Award. His adult books include Lovesong: Becoming a Jew and Do Lord Remember Me. Lester lives in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

  • Julius Lester




Download PDF



Go to website


Sign Up