Goyhood: A Novel

0 out of 5

Funny, poignant, and revelatory while plumbing the emotional depths of the relationship between estranged brothers, Goyhood examines what happens when one becomes unmoored from a comfortable, spiritual existence and must decide whether coincidence is in fact destiny.

When Mayer (née Marty) Belkin fled small-town Georgia for Brooklyn nearly thirty years ago, he thought he’d left his wasted youth behind. Now he’s a Talmud scholar married into one of the greatest rabbinical families in the world – a dirt-poor country boy reinvented in the image of God.

But his mother’s untimely death brings a shocking revelation: Mayer and his ne’er-do-well twin brother David aren’t, in fact, Jewish. Traumatized and spiritually bereft, Mayer’s only recourse is to convert to Judaism. But the earliest date he can get is a week from now. What are two estranged brothers to do in the interim?

So begins the Belkins’ Rumspringa through America’s Deep South with Mom’s ashes in tow, plus two tagalongs: an insightful Instagram influencer named Charlayne Valentine and Popeye, a one-eyed dog. As the crew gets tangled up in a series of increasingly surreal adventures, Mayer grapples with a God who betrayed him and an emotionally withdrawn wife in Brooklyn who has yet to learn her husband is a counterfeit Jew.


Reuven Fenton has been covering breaking news for the New York Post since 2007, and has earned national recognition for his exclusive reporting on myriad national stories. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University and Columbia University School of Journalism. Goyhood is his debut novel.

*A Zibby Summer Reads Selection

“A big-hearted novel about the enduring importance of faith and family . . . overall, a lot of fun.” — Associated Press

“A unique story of identity and redemption that examines no less of an issue than the essence of Judaism.” — The Jerusalem Post

“Fenton has a knack for the telling and visually arresting detail. His character sketches, too, are to be relished.” — Atlanta Journal Constitution

“A sweet-natured, fast-paced picaresque, the narrative blends the fun of an impromptu, disaster-laced road trip across the American South with a more serious inquiry into American Jewish identity.” — The Forward

“Nothing is authentic except the quest for the authentic and it’s just such a quest that speeds-way-over-the-legal-limit through the pages of Reuven Fenton’s remarkably funny and compassionate novel about Goys, Jews, and that most crisis-prone of contemporary identities: the male at middle-age.” — Joshua Cohen, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner The Netanyahus

“Bravo, Reuven Fenton, for finding humor, heart, and meaning in a lost soul’s religious ups and downs. Are Mayer and his twin Jewish? Will happiness win over self-doubt? Goyhood is funny, stirring, smart and beautifully written. Such lovable characters! Such a profoundly delicious book!” — Elinor Lipman, author of Ms. Demeanor and The Inn at Lake Devine

“A surprising and compelling novel written with the authenticity of an insider, the evocative precision of a journalist, and the heart of an audacious romantic. ” — Jonathan Tropper, author of the NYT bestseller This is Where I Leave You

“Touching, funny, and at times Shteyngartian absurd, Goyhood is road trip of a novel that grapples with what it means to be a Jew, and what it means to be human.” — Bethany Ball, author of The Pessimists

“Reuven Fenton starts with an improbable premise, throws kerosene on it, and lets us watch the whole thing take off on a loopy, exuberant flight. There’s no way this novel should work but it does: it’s funny, sweet, touching and somehow—improbably—unexpectedly—moving all at the same time. From the first page I read with my fingers across my eyes waiting for this joyful, creative novel to crash; miraculously—Baruch Hashem!—it never does.” — Mischa Berlinski, author of Fieldwork and Peacekeeping

Goyhood is an impossibly charming, beautifully written, and exquisitely felt ode to family and what it really means to belong. A triumph.” — Boris Fishman, author of A Replacement Life

“Rarely do you encounter a work of literary fiction, brilliant in its execution and engaging in its indelible characters, that is also a romp, a grand entertainment. Reuven Fenton’s Goyhood is all of that—its language rich and precise, its people irresistible, and its marvelous story a literal joyride. This is a novel that thrills with its hilarity and humbles with its bigness of heart. You’ll miss the world it contains as soon as you leave it—and will no doubt return again soon.” — Steve Stern, author of The Village Idiot

“A high-octane debut overflowing with heart, Goyhood swerves the line between devilry and virtue, humor and heartbreak. Buckle up for this one.” — Elyssa Friedland, author of Last Summer at the  Golden Hotel

“From Ocean Parkway to Bourbon Street, Goyhood is a classic American road novel with an ultra-Orthodox twist. Hold onto your kishkes. This book is a rollicking exploration of grief, love, brotherhood, and the American South that isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions as it cannonballs into the deep end of Jewish identity.” — Michael David Lukas, author of The Last Oracle of Stamboul and The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

“An uproarious, soulful study of the way we reshape—and deepen—our vision of self, family, and faith.” — David Hopen, author of The Orchard