Boston businessman Adam Friedman goes a little crazy—or becomes a little holy—after the death of his beloved wife. He becomes a very different kind of superhero. In a frenzy of mitzvot—good deeds, commandments—he saves lives and helps the needy. His teenage daughter begins to wonder if there isn't something more than a shared joke to the Mitzvah Man T-shirt she has designed for him. When Friedman is propelled into the headlines, followers gather on his doorstep. Voices, dreams, and auras visit him. Miracles occur among family, friends, and strangers alike. But while some hail the Mitzvah Man as a modern-day prophet, others brand him a madman, and he is in danger of losing custody of his daughter. Through his experiences of love and loss, beauty and pain, Friedman's daily quest reveals the unexpected ways in which God may inhabit us.
Clayton is not sure how to end Mitzvah Man: Those who “have intimations of God’s world, the true world, usually end up having to fall back into the world of compromise,” as he says elsewhere, and the compromise is no happier in literature than in life. But what Clayton does know for sure, and what he demonstrates powerfully in the course of his novel, is that unlikely events are likely to occur when a man puts himself in God’s hands. That is more than enough to sustain this wise and deeply satisfying novel—yet another example that the great subject of Jewish fiction going forward is the relationship between God and man.
~ D.G. Meyer in Commentary Magazine. Read the full review here.
Pow! . . . Zowee! . . . . Whoosh! Mitzvah Man is the new-look superhero for the modern age, where a damaged man without super strength can still perform righteous deeds and change the world. Novelist John Clayton knows that the biblical prophets didn't want the job, and the same is true of our heros--whether they are super or merely ordinary. With great imagination and lyrical wit, MITZVAH MAN will restore your faith in the miracle of simple goodness, and remind us all that the impulse to rescue can both save a life and transcend the agony of loss--even without having to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
~ Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke
John J. Clayton is back and more luminous than ever, deeper, too, and funnier. Mitzvah Man is mightier than mere mortals, especially in the super-hero t-shirt his daughter has made him. Plus, he's got the guidance of Jewish law to power his good deeds, a righteousness funded not by pride but by mourning. Clayton's people are as real as my friends and family, and give me as much to worry about and even love. Reader take heart! Your cries have been heard! Mitzvah Man is here!
~ Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream, The Smallest Color, Big Bend
A fascinating, extremely well-crafted, important work . . . about middle-class, assimilated Jewish American life, and its real need for connections to a faith that has come to seem almost irrelevant.
~ Sanford Sternlicht, author of The Tenement Saga
Read an interview on Mitzvah Man with John Clayton on the MA Jewish Ledger website.
Download the Reader's Guide to Mitzvah Man.
Available on Amazon. Click here.