Shifting is for the Goyim
By Elizabeth Zelvin
ISBN #: 9781611873900
Author’s website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Vicki.

Amy Greenstein aka Emerald Love is finishing up a tour performance with her band in Atlanta, she kisses her fiancé, and lead guitarist, goodbye and sets off for a three day break in Pumpkin Falls, New York.

Amy is going home for Passover and into the lukewarm arms of her traditional Jewish family. Her mother is clucking away in the kitchen, her father is an apathetic match-maker, her aunt is judgemental and bitter and her sister is meddlesome. The Passover dinner turns out to be an awkward family affair, much the same as all institutionalized family occasions tend to be.

Amy’s family don’t particularly appreciate her gift of singing, mostly because her voice truly is a gift. Her vocal chords have been enhanced to ‘unearthly’ levels by her shifter powers, coincidentally, also something that Amy’s family would not appreciate if they had any knowledge about it.

It turns out that Amy is the youngest in attendance and therefore is required to ask the Four Questions, except when she gets up to sing she has mysteriously lost her voice. The fiancé, Michael, tells her to visit a witch to cure what is quite clearly a spell of some kind. Little does she know; she has spoken to Michael for the last time…

Elizabeth Zelvin’s novelette, Shifting for the Goyim, is a satirical, supernatural, gloomy, whodunit! Zelvin’s strength lies in the mystery-building. It becomes apparent that the novelette structure is the aspect that contributes to the mystery-building the most as the reader is only afforded glimpses into the life of the protagonist and her pursuit of the truth.

Consequently, it is the novelette structure that leaves the world-building slightly lacking. But perhaps I only felt this way because Zelvin had created a juicy foundation for a full-length novel? It was a little difficult to grasp the scope of this world’s understanding of the supernatural and where Amy’s place was in the grand scheme of things. However, the old writer’s adage ‘show not tell’ comes into play here as it does not take long for the reader to discover why there was a need for vagueness in the beginning. Needless to say, I had a few ‘AH-HA’ moments during my second reading.

Zelvin’s main comment with Shifting is for the Goyim is the difference between biological family and adopted family. The representation of this is strongest when Amy is trying to figure out who has placed the voiceless spell on her. She is quick to place blame on her mother/father/aunt/sister and very reluctant to go there with her band. Amy is smothered by tradition and expectation when she returns home, so much so that this is the first trip back to Pumpkin Falls in a long time. Yet, she feels an immense freedom when she is on stage, with Michael, or shifting. Amy faces her greatest challenge when each one of these freeing aspects of her life is individually threatened.

The aforementioned ‘gloomy’ aspect of this story, other than the gruesome murder, is the resolution, which I found to be appropriate and deliberate but unsettling. Although Shifting for the Goyim is a very quick read the ‘reveal’ is especially unpredictable. The exposition that takes places during the ‘reveal’ felt a little bit artificial but I would say this is caused by the short amount of time that the reader is able to spend with the characters; we have less of an understanding of who they are and what motivates them.  Thankfully, there are no twirly moustache moments.

I recommend Shifting for the Goyim to readers who are looking for a quick, intuitive and supernatural read. Approach this novelette with the acceptance that you will undoubtedly yearn for more.