Shmutz: A Novel (Hardcover)
“Berliner finds the bridge between ecstatic and carnal.” —Raven Leilani, New York Times bestselling author
“Clever, subversive, juicy, and surprising….A stunner!” —Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
In this witty, provocative, and unputdownable debut novel a young Hasidic woman on a quest to get married fears she will never find a groom because of her secret addiction to porn.
Like the other women in her Brooklyn Hasidic community, Raizl expects to find a husband through an arranged marriage. Unlike the other women, Raizl has a secret.
With a hidden computer to help her complete her college degree, she falls down the slippery slope of online pornography. As Raizl dives deeper into the world of porn at night, her daytime life begins to unravel. Between combative visits with her shrink to complicated arranged dates, Raizl must balance her growing understanding of her sexuality with the more conventional expectations of the family she loves.
A singular, stirring, and compulsively readable debut novel, Shmutz explores what it means to be a fully realized sexual and spiritual being caught between the traditional and modern worlds.
About the Author
Felicia Berliner has an MFA from Columbia University. Shmutz is her first novel.
“Shmutz is a precise exploration of the abject terrain between faith and yearning. Berliner finds the bridge between ecstatic and carnal and welcomes their contractions.” —RAVEN LEILANI, New York Times bestselling author of Luster
“Clever, subversive, juicy, and surprising, Felicia Berliner’s Shmutz had me laughing out loud one minute and clutching my pearls the next. Raizl and her story are both so full of heart. A stunner! Raizl forever!” —DEESHA PHILYAW, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“Shmutz is a provocative and propulsive debut. Felicia Berliner comes to this story with a deep tenderness for her characters and a keen feel for the pain that arises when desire collides with custom. Shmutz probes the desperation of being caught in systems, both religious and secular, bent on telling everybody, but especially women, who they should be and what they should want.” —SAM LIPSYTE, author of Hack
“I read this pitch-perfect debut all in one sitting, barely breathing until I’d reached the stunning, poignant conclusion. I’m in awe of Felicia Berliner’s wisdom and insight into the human condition and her virtuosic ability to turn a highly specific story into a thoroughly universal one.” —JOANNA RAKOFF, author of My Salinger Year
“An engrossing, irreverent, deeply felt, and often funny story of a woman finding her place in her body, in her language, in her family, and in the wider world, Shmutz is perhaps the one thing I always want a book to be but seldom find: like nothing else I've ever read.” —LYNN STEGER STRONG, author of Want
“Malamud meets Melissa Broder in this deeply charming, soulful novel. Not since Eve tasted the forbidden fruit has a story about curiosity and shame felt so vital. Berliner has given us a true comedy: beautifully rendered, fully earned, and suffused with love.” —ELISA ALBERT, author of Human Blues
“Shmutz is like nothing else I’ve ever read anywhere by anyone, a thoroughly wonderful novel made on the bones of the unlikeliest of setups. It is a testament to Felicia Berliner’s considerable skill that the story of Raizl, obedient daughter, Orthodox Jew, porn addict, is absolutely authentic, hilarious and poignant. In heavier hands, this could have been a parable or a satire. Instead, it’s a masterstroke.” —JACQUELYN MITCHARD, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and The Good Son
“Berliner’s memorable debut…shines in her depictions of a deeply religious life, both in its inequities and its enchantments.... This brave, eye-opening tale is full of surprises.” —Publishers Weekly
“Bold, heartfelt, furious and funny. A wonderful debut.” —SHALOM AUSLANDER, author of Mother for Dinner