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 is wonderful storytelling. There are many interesting elements all expertly woven and beautifully read. A plot that is hard to predict; great characters; romance; mystery; magic; charming moments; sad moments; reflective and philosophical moments; historical color; and more!
I read and listen to books. I drink tea. I sleep like a cat and wished I lived in Hawaii.
This book was a fairytale to me, a very adult and gotham fairytale. I loved the story of the golem more at first, but as the story went on I became very entranced in the jinni also. For 2 characters that are not of this world, one made of fire (the jinni) and one made of clay (the golem), they possess many human characteristics. Chava, the golem, is a creature made of clay to resemble a human woman. She is made to be bound by a master, but her master dies soon after she is brought to life on a boat bound for New York. Ahmad, the jinni, is a being who is able to change forms, but is trapped as a male human by a wizard and locked in a flask. He is accidentally set free by a New York tinsmith, but doomed to remain in human form. Chava and Ahmad struggle to live amongst humans while keeping the secrets of their identities. Few know the truth of where they came from. Eventually they cross paths, each sensing an un-humanness the other possesses. Wecker introduces many other interesting characters that add layers to make this a complex story that is rich in imagery. As a reader, I felt the grittiness of the city and the strange qualities of the golem and the jinni to be so real. I read that the author spent 7 years researching this book and it shows in the details of the city and it's immigrants. The historical fiction aspect of this book did not disappoint.
I am not a huge fan of fantasy books. In fact, I usually avoid them unless they are getting outstanding reviews. To me, this book was worth all the hype. I found the protagonists to be strange and likable and I ultimately cared about what happened to them. I have read other reviews in which readers have said the book needed some editing because it was too long and maybe this is true, but I didn't find myself getting bored at all. I was captivated. This is the first time that I tried Whispersync and I found it to be a great tool, esp. for this longer book. Also, George Guidall did not disappoint, he was an excellent narrator and I look forward to listening to more of him in the future.
Beautiful character driven story taking place at the turn of the 20th century in New York City. Two immigrants come to this city, not by choice, and forced to find their way. While there is a magical fantasy element in that the characters are a Golem and a Djinn, I would still call it a story of human nature. It is a story of culture, religion, identity, and friendship. Highly recommend.
Take a Hebrew myth (the Golem) and an Arabic myth (the Jinni) and juxtapose them in New York a century ago. Use excellent English and original phrases, and what you get is a very readable novel. I recommend this highly. The narrator was adept at changing accents.
First of all George Guidall could read the dictionary and have me entranced for hours! But I also enjoyed this story more than I thought I would... it contains a bit of fantasy, with a little history of New York's lower east side with a splash of the middle east. It is a story that shows supernatural creatures in very real life human dilemmas as well as fantastical dilemmas and at the same time weaves in the human characters every day struggles and interactions. All the while dealing with the subjects of morality and religion.
I had never heard of a Golem but it is a creature of Jewish folklore. Of course we all have expectations of what a Jinni is but they are not realized in this story. This story makes you believe that it is indeed possible that we are living along side mythical creatures in our everyday lives! It is sort of a fairy tale for adults a little along the lines of Neil Gaiman's Stardust if not a bit more melancholy but If you enjoyed that I believe you will also enjoy this story.
Mentor Coach, Author, Coach Trainer
Exquisite writing and performance! This book has everything I want:
Enough (but not too many) rich characters with special skills
Explorations into the power of relationships and community
Insider perspectives into diverse cultures and religions
The complex flavor of New York City
I'm eagerly awaiting for your next book, Helene!
Fantastically macabre. A dark comedy that touched my heart. Oh how we wonder about the beholder's eyes and thoughts....and words spoken as we turn our backs. What can protect us from getting rip apart by that cruelty? Solitude? Magic? Violence? Kindness from others?
Welcome to New York all you misfits and strangers. Enjoy!
The book describes a 1899 world in which Golems and Jinnis actually exist. It does a good job at making that interesting and believable, and also paints a good picture of the historical time. It is quite poetic at times.
The main characters are a little shallow, a little flat (the Golem more than the Jinni). I expected to see some sort of spiritual quest, some development in which they learn how to cope with their own nature, some greater significance in their actions, but the story follows more like a sequence of haphazard events, although it does get a little better at the end.
At points the books is too long and slow. I love long books but in this one there were parts in which nothing much was actually happening, to the point that listening to it felt a bit like work.
The narrator performance is very good; he gave very distinct voices to each character and he had this unusual cadence that made his sentences very interesting.
I am still glad I read it but I was expecting a really top-notch book given all the raving reviews.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD:
Even though there is a suggestion all along that the Jinni and the Golem will fall in love, there is no romance chemistry in between them. The only thing they share is being mythical creatures in 1899 New York and they *do* have a lot of *friendship* chemistry, but the idea that they would fall in love was very unconvincing to me.
Fascinating. Well-wriiten. Satisfying.
Too many to list. The book is full of arcane information, good characters, and an excellent plot.
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