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
Beautiful story, well narrated. The characters are well developed, as is the sense of time and place. An original story. Didn't want to stop listening.
Wonderful, original story. You can very pleasantly lose yourself and escape into this one... Don't hesitate! One of the best credits Iv ever spent!
What an amazing and unique story. I was so captivated by all the characters. The book was very satisfying and I love George Guidall's narration. I didn't want the story to end. I wanted to hear more about the fascinating Golem and Jinni exploring their world.
This is a story I will come back to year after year. The idea of a jinni and golem "immigrants" trying to inconspicuously carve out work-a-day lives in turn of the century New York City, is an intriging storyline in its own right. Despite being supernatural, the hero and heroine are charmingly relatable as they cope with emotional and moral conflicts surrounded and aided by rich and sometimes quirky secondary characters a misfit would want to befriend. The author crafts an intriguing backstory based on factual history of America's immigrant culture and also what seems to be her own imaginitive expansion on mysterious middle eastern folklore that feels satisfyingly plausible. The story's backbone is in the richness of even the most minor characters - somehow they find much joy and achievement despite tragedy and a grueling day to day life.
Narration is spot on as well.
This is not the type of book I normally read, but it was incredibly well written and that kept me entertained throughout. This was more a story of human nature and what it means to be human rather than your prototypical sci-fi/fantasy novel. The narrator was excellent and I often found myself lost in his portrail of the characters.
I most definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone, regardless of genre preferences. I especially recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, legends, myths, and fairy tales. With a beautiful writing style, Wecker recreates turn of the century New York like a masterwork painting with varied and dynamic characters.
I loved the strong characterizations throughout this book. Each character, regardless of importance or presence in the book, was highly unique and identifiable. Wecker's portrayal of each character brilliantly highlights some of the more beautiful and heart-breaking experiences as a human, and the characters in this novel read remarkably well and realistic.
Guidall does a wonderful job narrating this novel; he gives a variety and subtly to each character, successfully amplifying the already strong characterization created by Wecker. The pacing was wonderful, and the overall performance was delightful.
"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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