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
One of the top 10
I loved the mix of fictional characters, both indifferent cultures, coming together in a familiar place and time.
My favorite was the Jinni because he was so temperamental.
When a path that couldn't be followed got crossed and ended up destiny.
The story kept me interested from beginning to end. The mix of the two fictional characters and such different cultures in a familiar place and time made the story so full of turns. I did not guess the ending but I knew it was going to all come together. It was also performed very well by George Guidall and that was very important.
As unbelievable as the premise sounds, you will grow to love and understand these extraordinary characters. Chava is a golem, made of clay to be a biddable stepford wife and Ahmad is the Jinn, made of fire who values his freedom above all. Their lives intertwine in the melting pot of immigrant life in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century.
Their journey of self discovery, the description of immigrant life in New York, the mythical aspect of the Arabic and Jewish cultures, the believability and depth of the supporting characters, the taut build of the conflicts and the satisfying resolutions make this an outstanding book. One of the best I've read in years.
George Guidall's performance is outstanding. He never over emotes or over acts yet he manages to convey the emotional senses of every character.
I can't put my finger on why this book feels comforting but it created that feeling in me. Do not miss this book, it is wonderful. I will listen to it over and over again. It is going in my favorite books of all time. The narrator fit the story perfectly. The Golem and the Jinni has me searching through audible's list of books George Guidall has narrated and impatiently waiting for Helene Wecker to write another book.
My first line of this review states that I found the book comforting. I have to say I do not know why. This book deals with immigrants traveling and starting life in America. There is a lot of turmoil in the human characters as well as the Golem and the Jinni. There is something wonderful about the use of legend and mysticism in this book. The magic in the book is well researched and lends to these mystical beings being just as displaced as any other immigrant and finding their way to create a life in America. In some ways being mystical really is little different, every immigrant is in a strange land and clings to what community they have; searching for something or someone like them.
The twists and turns in this book are enjoyable. I loved learning the backstory of how the Golem was created and the history of the Jinni. You learn of this as it is relevant to the current/main story. I don't want to give anything away. Read this book or listen to this book. You won't regret it. I have to say I am sure I would have loved the book if I read it but Helene Wecker's writing and George Guidall's narration compliment one another so well that I am grateful I got it on Audible. I think George Guidall enhanced the experience.
Helene Wecker's re-creation of early 20th c New York City alone would be worth the listen, but add a touch of mystical Judaism, multiple ethical quandaries, and two wonderfully conceived and developed otherworldly characters and you have a truly fascinating tale. But fair warning: this is an Audible title that may keep you up until 2 or 3 a.m. All in all, this is an amazing first novel by a supremely gifted (and hopefully prolific) writer.
Reader George Guidall was the perfect choice to narrate.
I would rate this among the best I've listened to. The story captured me from the first few paragraphs and the reader is excellent at bringing the characters to life. I listen while driving and always looked forward to getting back in the car so I could continue the story.
Highly recommend this book.
This is a compelling story with an excellent narrator. Readers will learn about golems and genies as well as getting a flavor of old New York in the 19th century.
Mother of teenaged bear, Wife to chaos, Warrior
There are some books that just read this one unfolds. Helene Wecker weaves a great story with back grounds and deep characterizations. It was fascinating but very long. I found that I was pushing towards the end. This book wasn't long and boring. It was just long I wanted the characters to have a great climax but when I got there it fizzled. Not in a bad way it just wasn't a great as I expected. the narration was very good but not spectacular and i believe this drew away from "something" from the climax.
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.
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