Published by HarperCollins on April 23rd, 2013
Genres: adult, historical
Buy on Amazon
Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
Ever since I spied this book in the bookstore, I was instantly drawn to a book that delved into both Jewish and Arab mythology and culture. It was a strange yet appealing combination. Sadly, I did not buy the book as soon as I bought it, but thanks to the yearly book gifting giveaway at Reddit, I was able to finally own this one on my Kindle.
This book was well worth the huge commitment. According to Amazon, the Kindle book came in at a whopping 809 pages. It was intimidating, but I couldn’t stay away from this book for long.
The cultural and historical themes of the book makes this tome well worth reading. Overall, I was pleased with the novel, as a whole.
I have to give Wecker some major credit from the start. Her two main and title characters, the jinni and the golem, each had a distinct voice. I have become so use to characters sharing the same voice that I just tend to overlook it. When I do see characters written as completely different individuals, not as a matching set, I have to stop and marvel at the skill and care of the author.
The rich cultural immersion. If you are unfamiliar with golems in Jewish mythology, or the true origin of the Arab genie (jinni), then this is a wonderful introduction to the lore from each culture. I was more familiar with the Jewish history and somewhat acquainted with the Arab tales. The book touches on the background of the mythical creatures.
The authentic research of the history surrounding the immigration period of New York. Written at the turn of the 20th century, the Wecker dedicates portions of her author website to the background of the locations in the book. It is not only entertaining, but also provides a slice of American history. I enjoyed the genuine glimpse into the cultural salad of the area as well as the story line.
The two characters, the Jinni and the Golem, stand on two sides of human nature. The female golem is a representation of order, control and responsibility, while the jinni tends to stand for impulse and larger-than-life living.
The range of secondary characters. I enjoyed a large majority of the background characters as well.
The ending to the book. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I was touched with the sentiment of the conclusion.
Expect a huge range of emotions in this one – no feeling is left untouched.
The first parts of the novel seemed to drag along. At times, I felt like rushing through parts of the first few chapters.
One of the characters I ended up loving, Michael, was continually robbed in the entire book, for convenience. I was sore after witnessing Michael’s treatment. He seemed to constantly get the short end of the stick just for simply existing.
In certain parts, the novel almost grew stagnant and seemed to come to a standstill.