Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, 2014
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 listenable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
©2013 Helene Wecker (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers
I'm so happy I found this book bit so sad that I finished it. Ughh! The story was so engaging, blending both historically realistic NYC setting and Syria from a millennium ago and magical elements of the Golem's creation and Jinni's existence. I think I'm addicted. As I have experience with both Eastern European Jewry and friends of Syrian branch of Catholicism, I definitely saw that the author was faithful to both.
I was also very pleased with the narrator - he managed the clipped tones of the Jinni and tenor of the Golem to perfection, not to mention the myriad of other characters with their distinct voices. Will seek out more work by both, the author and narrator.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys even the slightest bit of fiction! Helene Wecker creates a marvelous depiction of several different cultures of the world, and the characters are wonderful - endearing characters are lovable and have you genuinely cheering for them, and antagonists are just the right amount of believably malicious.
This is all aided by Guidall's masterful performance, with varying, unique voices for the many characters. My only possible complaint would be that since a tiny bit of the prose is either vintage English (e.g. "hansom" used to describe a horse-drawn carriage) or of Hebrew/Syrian origin, there were a few times where I had to rewind and listen closely to pick out the phonetics of a word in order to look it up.
But this is not a real critique - the authentic language really does add more to the book than it takes away. I suppose the perfect scenario would be to have both the paper book and audio book, with Guidall's fantastic voice narrating as you read along.
Audiobooks don't get much better than this. For all 20+ hours, I was continually pulled in to the book's world by both the story and the narration. I'm not one to often write reviews, but this work absolutely earned 5 stars across the board.
I loved everything about this book. I usually listen while working out but I couldn't put it down and didn't want it to end. The narration was awesome of course. Mr. Guidall's manipulation of his voice to fit the different characters is amazing.
Well, I didn't like this book as much as I had hoped I would. It was nice. It was fairly enjoyable. And, it was a decent little story. However, for me, it dragged quite a bit! The story line seemed unnecessarily convoluted (or, perhaps, that was just the organization of the various scenes - not sure!). But, I found myself not eager to return to the book. And, for the times when I was engaged with it, names and actions blurred in a mish-mosh of details that, perhaps, were not all that necessary to the main storyline. Sigh! I almost gave it 2 starts - but I liked it a bit more than, "It was okay" - especially near the end...where things picked up nicely! I listened to the audiobook, read by George Guidall - who did a fine job with the reading, and with the range and tone of the voicing (especially the older mens' voices!!!). Still, by the end of the audiobook - I was very much ready for it to be over. The final suspense at the end was not sufficient to overcome the ennui during the middle of the book. Again, sigh! And, while I don't regret experiencing this story, it probably won't be one that I recommend to others. That said - this in NO ways would keep me from reading this author again.
a dedicated dilettante
The Golem and the Jinni provides the rare treat of historical fiction infused with fantastic elements whilst mixing multiple cultures. The characters are compelling, multiple related story lines are deftly woven together and the story itself provides a beautiful tableau on which to paint these characters. The turn-of-the-(previous)-century, immigrant New York that Helene Wecker paints is a full character in itself.
Ms. Wecker doesn’t simply invite us to know her characters, she has fully immerses us in their world, their lives, and in their thoughts. As we read the book, the rhythm of our own thoughts and the vocabulary of our own reflections begin to take on a hint of flavor from those of the characters. These characters are so rich in their responses and their thought life as well as the way they see the challenges ahead of them that, while there is a lovely driving narrative throughout the whole story, you can simply enjoy diving into the well of these lives.
I heard the book, performed by audiobook veteran George Guidall, as much of the story as I read. His pacing, inflection and characterization are spot-on. In particular, his pacing allows you to fully soak up the world, the characters and storyline. If you enjoy audiobooks at all, you love this one. If you want to luxuriate in the wording, you can always user Whispersync for Voice to jump between the Audible version and the Kindle.
I highly recommend this story of love and loss, moving beyond people’s expectations laid down for you and rising about your cultural limitations even as you embrace it.
Full review available on joesgeekfest on Wordpress
I enjoyed following the two mythic creatures, Ahmed the Jinni and Chava who was a Golem. It was a very enjoyable story about how they tried to make their way in New York City in 1899, and how they slowly emerged and began to rely on each other.
A very good read and excellent narration by one of my favorite authors, George Guidall. I look forward to reading another book by Helene Wecker.
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