Review | The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Golem and JinniSet in the late 1800s, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is about two characters: Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Chava and Ahmad end up in New York City and try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while also trying to mask their true natures.

By chance, the two meet and become friends. Without really knowing it, as they spend time together, their different natures draw them close together. In the meantime, a mysterious and dangerous old man has come to New York City in search of endless life.  As the paths of all three of these characters converge, difficult decisions must be made by Chava and Ahmad as it relates to their individual futures as well as their life together.

For me, The Golem and the Jinni did everything that Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell didn’t. It was very literary, but also had a great plot that kept the story moving forward.

Having spent a semester abroad in Israel, it was fun for me to read about the differences between the Jewish and Syrian cultures. Wecker did a great job of representing both. I also found the descriptions of 19th century New York interesting.

All of the characters in The Golem and the Jinni had depth to them and interesting individual stories that worked together to create the whole picture of what was happening. There were hints as to how the story would play out, but Wecker did a great job of weaving everything together in such a way that I was still guessing up to the end as to what would happen and how each character was connected with the other.

The listened to the audio version of The Golem and the Jinniread by George Guidall, it was fantastic. I’ve listened to another audio book Guidall has done and he has a great voice for story-telling.

The Golem and the Jinni was nominated for the Nebula award in 2014. I’m giving it four stars.


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The Golem and the Jinni Book Cover The Golem and the Jinni
Helene Wecker
Fantasy
Harper Perennial
December 31, 2013
512

In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

  • Started this over the weekend. I’m already in love with the story…and it’s barely begun.