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
Brilliantly written and performed, this thought-provoking and poetic story interweaves the lives of it's characters with a grace rarely found among authors. Bravo!!!
I loved the story and enthusiastic performance. Fantasy tale with a realistic spin and commentary on life of New York immigrants/middle eastern cultures. I really enjoyed this audiobook and would recommend to anyone
The narrator, who obviously felt a deep understanding of the author's intent made this book one to relish and even to listen to a second time. His ability to differentiate the characters by subtle verbal tics: excellent though not 100%. I sometimes had to reorient as to who was speaking. Guidall made each character distinctive, it's just that too often the bits were jammed too close together (poor editing), without a moments pause, to allow the switch to occur seamlessly. Excellent story, well developed, complexly layered with enough depth to oblige the listener/reader to consider the social, personal, political, philosophical aspects. Human nature - its moral and ethical dilemmas regarding compassion and responsibility, romantic vs. platonic love, free will vs. enslavement, faith and altruism, all these issues are lightly brought to fore as the characters play out this tale. I would credit the narrator's skill on par with the author's. Inflection and emphasis are delicate components in advancing both the character's personality and the author's intent and Guidall hit that nail on the head. Someone used the word 'savory' to describe his voice, that's dead-on, too. I don't normally enjoy fantasy--much prefer non-fiction, really, but this one was so tightly woven-- and so well read-- that I just could not put it down.
Rabbi Meyer, a well-intentioned man who, like most scholars, thought too much and acted too little.
Baker and loves audio books
Having read the reviews I had high expectations and was not disappointed. I loved this book. As I listened I was not wondering how the story ended but was totally engrossed in the lives of both the golem and the jinnie. Would happily listen to much more about their continued lives.
Very well written with great characters, believable and diverse. Great imagination. At a few parts surprising, and at others was a little slow.
Red Thread Mom
I am always impressed when an author takes on something fantastic and out of my realm of experience and not only makes me believe in it but makes me able to relate to it. Or in this case, them. The Golem and the Jinni of the title start out as magical characters and we go with them on their journey as they try to live among humans, and then they become, ultimately, as human as you or I, at least in our spirit. The novel is ultimately an exploration of what it means to be human. To think. To make choices. To have flaws and limitations. To learn how to live with those flaws and limitations. Ultimately, I think, people (and here, a golem and a jinni) are defined not by what they can't do or can do, but how they handle both.
I also enjoyed the setting: turn-of-the-century New York, particularly Little Syria and a Jewish neighborhood (if it had a name, I can't recall it right now) and a touch of the Bowery. This gave the novel more of the feel of an historical fiction novel rather than fantasy. So if you are put off by the idea of reading about magical creatures, don't be. It's more about relationships and personal exploration than it is about magic.
The ending was also pretty satisfying. And as a note, the narrator, George Guidall, was outstanding.
The story building, the characters, and the narration are just the best! I normally listen to space opera or epic fantasy but had decided this looked good (based on the reviews) and boy was I right! What an original idea!
Spoiler alert! The break-up. It was devastating.
When Joseph got what was coming to him!
Wish it were longer. This is one of those rare books where you can get completely invested in the characters so when it's over, it's
almost depressing! It's that good! Kudos to the author and narrator, excellent job by both!
Really wonderful story. I loved the setting and the evocation of New York's various immigrant communities. The two main characters were well done, and their interactions were some of the best parts of the book. It got a little long and complicated during the last third, but all came together in a satisfying way. Narration was excellent.
I am generally not one for stories about mythical creatures, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The characters are complex, the plot is well-paced and the narration is exceptional.
"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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