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
This book -- and this narrator -- were absolutely incredible. 100% would suggest consuming it only via audiobook; how the narrator managed the plethora of names, accents, and voices I can't even conceive. The story itself reminded me of my favorite parts of the Count of Monte Cristo, where tiny threads, seemingly inconsequential, are slowly and gracefully woven together with fascinating complexity. The characters are so very real that they don't hesitate to share their pain with you -- this book straight up devoured me so thoroughly that at one point I had to stop and listen to a much lighter book for a while until I had the strength to come back.
That said, when reading this book you'll probably confuse your friends; every time I tried to explain it I found people staring at me like I was crazy. "Oh, gods, and the ICE CREAM SELLER," I'd moan, and they'd scoot uncomfortably away. "She gave him MACAROONS!" I'd cry, and they'd pat my back and wonder if I'd completely lost it. Or I'd moan about aquariums, or silver figurines, or a fountain ...
Honestly, I love this book. It's incredible. Do yourself a favor and use your credit wisely this month: it's well worth it.
I think so, though this was a little plodding, the story was inventive and the descriptions were vivid.
I am not sure whether it was the slow pace of the story development or his style but the experience of listening was slow and laborious.
Christopher M Wilcox
On the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Twist and Turns Everywhere. I will listen to it again and again.
This is one of the best books I have encountered in a very long time.
My life is full of books - old and new - and this one is unique!
Set in New York - circa 1900 - two mythological beings, A Golem and Jinni
encounter one another. The setting is the world of my immigrant grandparents.
It is depicted in loving and accurate detail - a perfect history.
The Golem is an earthy creation from Jewish Eastern European traditions.
The Jinni is a fire elemental from Arabian Mythology - the Arabian Nights.
How do they interact? This book tells a lovely story. It is a page turner.
As entertainment it is thrilling. Beyond that, it raises questions as to how completely
we arebound to our basic natures.
This is a multi layered, nuanced, entertaining, and magical read.
As soon as I finished it, I had to listen to it all over again.
How I long for a sequel.
I delightful journey into magical thinking. It had a similar flavor to Pete Hamill'a "Forever ". Despite the magical premiss it gave a nice historical view of an earlier time in Manhattan.
"Fascinating magical tale"
„The Golem and the Jinni“ is one of those rare books that completely draws you into its world. In her first published novel Helene Wecker creates a magical setting, beginning at the turn of the century in Poland and then she brings New York and its inhabitants to life. Combined with old Arabian and Jewish folk tales, she had me hooked until the last page was read – at the same time wishing for a magical book that would never end.
Two mystical beings live among humans, trying to survive without being notice, blend in but not lose themselves. Chava (= life) is a golem and was created by rabbi in Poland who liked meddling with the dark arts, is “curious and intelligent”, as her master had requested. Ahmad is a fire jinni who was trapped in an old copper flask, released by chance in New York but is still bound by an old spell.
Both do not really fit into human society and often feel lonely, especially at night when nearly everyone around them is asleep. Surrounding them is a colourful mix of all classes of New York’s society at that time.
Chava was created to serve, to please her master. Unfortunately he already died on the voyage to New York, or maybe fortunately for her? She herself is never certain, because her unusual intelligence and perceptiveness for human needs put her into a permanent vicious circle. There is one episode when she tries to find out what “money” is, as this must be more important to humans than everything else….
And this explains one of the reasons why I was so fascinated with this book. It is a moving tale of two outsiders who can never really fit in. Who look at our human society from a totally different angle. Who must make their way in a world totally foreign to them, even more than to all the other immigrants coming to New York. Both are very different from us humans and in some ways not so very different at all. They could live forever – but they want to do so? Chava yearns for a master, the jinni for freedom. She was made of clay, feels cold to the touch, he was created of fire and has a fierce temper, too.
The other figures show other facets of human life, a kind old rabbi, a vicious magus, a young woman from New York’s high society, a bedouin girl and her father… The tale of each figure is told with utmost sensitivity, letting all of them come to life and stay in my memory for a long time.
Some elements reminded me of the books by Deborah Harkness who also expertly lets her magical beings move in our human world, creating characters that seem like real persons after a few chapters.
“The Golem and the Jinni” is one of the best stories I have read in a long time, with magical and oh so human characters, letting me walk the streets of a long vanished New York and wishing them all the happiness in the world. A magical, moving, sometimes humours tale. I hope Helene Wecker will continue writing and look forward to reading her next novel.
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