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Helene Wecker has written an interesting and entertaining first novel. Her main characters are a Golem, Chava, and a Jinni, Ahmad, who are magical beings that look human but are not. The Golem is of Jewish origin and she is recognized for what she is by an old rabbi, who takes her in and continues to help her until he dies. The Jinni is from the ancient Bedouin lands of Syria. When he is unknowingly released from a battered copper container, he immediately accepts a position to do metalwork with a local tinsmith, Boutrous Arbeely. It is 1899 and these two magical creatures are living as immigrants in New York City. Like other immigrants they have to figure out how to survive through regular jobs and by making friends but discovery and violent response to them as monsters is a big danger. For Chava, a special risk lies in going amok in defense of threats to herself or her friends. For Ahmad, his penchant for seducing young women gets him in trouble. They are both trying to fit in and as they navigate their new lives they learn to control their true natures but ultimately nothing seems to give them contentment. Both are lonely and neither is truly happy.
Though the Golem and the Jinni find themselves on opposite ends, once they meet they come to realize they have more in common than might at first be apparent. Since neither sleeps they choose to discover the wonders of the city by night. They realize that because of their strange situations they can talk to each other in ways they can never disclose to others. Through their friendship Ahmad begins to provoke Chava by challenging her submissive nature. He stokes her curiosity but her reaction to his efforts results in disagreements between the two so that they argue often. Their back-and-forth banter is endearing and most entertaining. I couldn't help laughing after their 'hat conversation'. Despite their quarrels Ahmed continues to prod at Chava, daring her to explore and experience her desires and the larger world. Her nature is to serve and please people but Ahmed encourages Chava to be ‘free’.
In the meantime pieces of Ahmad’s lost memories begin to take shape and so he remembers the sins of his ancient past as well as the reason there is a bewitched band of iron around his wrist. The past comes to haunt both our main characters and for both, the biggest threat comes in the form of Chava’s powerful creator, a disgraced rabbi who practices the dark art of Kabbalistic magic and who comes to America caring only about finding the secret of eternal life.
This tale is enchanted with legend, lore and magic. Wecker’s cast of characters are well formed and each plays a unique and crucial part in this story. The action builds slowly and flows effortlessly from past to present and from character to character until suddenly you find yourself propelled into a whirlwind of an ending, which when it hits, it's non-stop until the end. You will find yourself rooting for Chava and Ahmed when inevitably they are forced to confront the evil that men do.
A fascinating concept, wonderfully executed. This beautifully written novel tells the story of two non-human characters who join their human counterparts, immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City, as they all attempt to find their way in a strange new world. They are surrounded by an impressive cast of supporting characters, and the city itself comes alive with such detail. I loved everything about this story!!! It was completely engaging, from beginning to end. Hope to see more from this author.
I liked to premise using the Golem & Jinni. Part folklore, part theological argument, part supernatural, the story takes place primarily in turn of the century New York City. I looked at this for awhile before deciding to listen. Drawn to the Golem & Jinni concept & George Guidall happens to be one of my favorite narrators. This is a very entertaining, thought provoking listen.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a perfect escape from the drudgeries of daily life. I listened to it as I drove to and from work and found myself in New York along with the characters. I was riveted and found the narrator to be an excellent reader. The pace was perfect for the characters presented. If you like fantasy, fairy tales and mythology, get this book; you won't be disappointed. If, however, you are looking for adventure, danger and thrills a-plenty, look elsewhere. This book is a slow build-up to a fantastical time and place, with a miss-mash of folklore, fiction and fact. It was cleverly written and I look forward to more of the same from the author.
Custom jewelry designer who listens to books while she works.
There was a fairly well developed background of immigrant life in New York in 1900's, but it did not overshadow the story. It was interesting to see the unusual character's perspective on the "modern western lifestyle" etc.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, I love to learn about a great many things, and I enjoy a wide variety of genres. Me, bored? Never!
Verisimilitude. When writing a combination of historical fiction and fantasy, verisimilitude is the key, for both author and audience alike. In this debut novel by Helene Wecker, we are treated to the ethnic neighborhoods of 1899 New York City in a way that makes them feel as close and as familiar as our own homes. The streets are populated with a variety of characters who do so much more than play on the stereotypes. Each one stands on its own as a vibrant individual with a story to tell. And in the middle of all of it... a golem and a jinni, two creatures of myth and legend drawn from the respective folklores of the people who inhabit these neighborhoods, and both with their respective flaws and foibles as they try to get by in a world that would not accept nor understand them. It's a new twist on the classic "stranger in a strange land" tale.
I first heard about this book on the This Is Audible podcast. I was intrigued by what I heard in the interview, but I let it marinate for a bit before finally putting forth my credit. This is quite easily one of the best credits I've ever spent. The story is a slow build, but a no point does it hold back. Wecker is a masterful storyteller, and she knows how to make you want to come back to learn more about her creations. These characters live, as much as you or I or anyone else we might know. The subtle twists and turns are tied together about as perfectly as one could wish, and the end is - to my mind - quite satisfying to the story arcs presented. I'm looking forward to more works of this caliber from Helene Wecker. Her name will not be one I forget.
George Guidall's narration is wonderful. He adds that little something extra that brings these characters to life, making them that much more endearing... as though they needed any help on that front. His vocals as he changes characters are believable to the point where it's sometimes easy to forget he's only one man. This is the first narration of his I've heard, and it worked so very well for this story.
This is by far the best book I've listened to all year, and I listen a lot. I recommend it with enthusiasm.
Even though the book's main characters are two supernatural creatures, the book is not "about" their supernatural powers and how they use them. Instead, it's about assimilating - how each of these creatures attempts to make a life in New York City in 1900 and tries to fit in as human.
The story is fascinating, alternating between the experiences of the golum and the jinni as they each try to come to terms with their environment, both alone and after they meet each other. They, and the people they meet, are given full back stories (well, except what the Jinni can't remember but eventually it is revealed), but it's never boring and the story never drags. The author builds suspense so gradually that you don't even realize it, but in the back of your mind you know "something" has to happen. As the gaps are filled in and the connections become tighter, you wonder how in the world could anyone think of this?
As the climax approaches and the story's elements weave together, it becomes apparent that the story is really about free will and destiny. The golum is certain that her true nature is to be bound, and so she tries to behave as a bound person would, within the context of her accidental and scary freedom. The jinni is certain that his nature is to be free, so he behaves in as free a manner as he can, in the context of his aggravating and unwanted bounds.
In the end, the golum comes to understand that to be free is wonderful, and that the self-imposed constraints to freedom are far better than to be bound by, and to, evil. The jinni comes to understand that freedom comes with responsibility, and to be bound to community and friendship is no hardship but actually an honor.
The narrator is excellent and brings the story to life. It was a joy from start to finish.
One of the top 10
I loved the mix of fictional characters, both indifferent cultures, coming together in a familiar place and time.
My favorite was the Jinni because he was so temperamental.
When a path that couldn't be followed got crossed and ended up destiny.
The story kept me interested from beginning to end. The mix of the two fictional characters and such different cultures in a familiar place and time made the story so full of turns. I did not guess the ending but I knew it was going to all come together. It was also performed very well by George Guidall and that was very important.
As unbelievable as the premise sounds, you will grow to love and understand these extraordinary characters. Chava is a golem, made of clay to be a biddable stepford wife and Ahmad is the Jinn, made of fire who values his freedom above all. Their lives intertwine in the melting pot of immigrant life in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century.
Their journey of self discovery, the description of immigrant life in New York, the mythical aspect of the Arabic and Jewish cultures, the believability and depth of the supporting characters, the taut build of the conflicts and the satisfying resolutions make this an outstanding book. One of the best I've read in years.
George Guidall's performance is outstanding. He never over emotes or over acts yet he manages to convey the emotional senses of every character.