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
He vanished into the story which--in narration in my opinion--is the highest possible compliment.
This book is 5 stars in all regards and I haven't quite finished (another 4 hours to go). One thing I find in novels that I love is that they contain characters that I care about intensely and that the story begins to feel like a movie in my mind. There are, obviously, many great and wonderful novels that have other characteristics, but this novel has these two attributes in spades. I marvel that this is Helene Wecker's first novel. She is a terrific writer, never writes in cliches and has such command of her plot that whenever I begin to anticipate the next turn she foils me with something truer and more original. Her two principal characters also surprise me at times. Both have strong and consistent characters but can still say or do something unexpected. For a long novel, I think the pacing is excellent and my interest has never flagged. I will be sorry to have it end and not to have another Helene Wecker novel to turn to.
(The rooftop world the author conjures is so brilliant. I can't imagine that this book will not be turned into a movie.)
Smart, unexpected, astute
The scene in dance hall was brilliant: incisively drawn, it evoked the movement and joy of the two main characters in magical words.
It is as though he is reading a folk tale and it is a perfect style for this story--the dramatic pauses and voices he lends to the characters are extremely effective, though I would also be happy to read it in print, too.
I was transfixed by Ice Cream Saleh, with his history as a physician and transformation to an ice cream vendor in New York, then the recovery of his sight through his exorcism. As with nearly all the characters, his is finely wrought, and Ms. Wecker deftly portrays just the right amount of detail so the reader can ably fill in the shadows.
Just a great listen--I highly recommend it.
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.
I enjoyed this book mostly because of the characters -- they were real, with flaws and strengths. The writing was smart and I found myself really caring about what happened to the characters.
The story was also interesting - for me it was unique, having only read a few stories with Jin and Golems, so the world was still newish for me.
The pace was decent - a tad slow in parts - and the author's writing style is smart. She uses dialog between characters to build the story, which I think always makes for a better read.
I'm looking forward to the next installment (I hope there is one...)
The setting, character development, human insights, and narrator all made this book a wonderful listen. There was a gentle, penetrating quality which made this book particularly enjoyable after listing to other fantasy novels which contained a lot of violence. A remarkable first novel.
You know when you listen to a book and the colors seem richer? Almost like you accidentally walked into a Van Gogh painting, and now all the characters and images are super-vivid? That was my experience with this book. I have to admit that I am a pushover for things that verge into magical realism, so combine that with the historical fiction AND traditional folklore, and this book had me from the outset. But I'd argue that even if someone was not a fan of those things, the natural fluidity of the storytelling would seduce them deep into this novel.
I loved the audio-experience of this book, in particular, because Guidall's voice "fit" the expressive characters so beautifully.
This is one of the best books of the summer. When I read the publisher's description I thought this would be a work of fantasy involving time and the possibility of peace between Muslims and Jews. I was delighted to find instead a deep story about people, just people. It was not a reference to politics or war or the problems of the Middle East. It was a study on the question of what it means to be human, about freedom and redemption that comes from choosing to do the right thing, and most of all, love. The descriptions of the immigrant communities and geography of Manhattan in the late 1800's were wonderful and deeply satisfying. The characters and dialogue captivating and true. George Guidall's narration was, as usual, excellent.
Is this what literature is supposed to be like? I think so. Wonderful.
It doesn't get any better than this. A very good story perfectly narrated by George Guidall.
The book grips you from the very beginning and won't let go before the end.
Definitely in the top ten!
Loved them all but the jinni was someone I identified with in some ways so was my favorite.
I love a skilled voice actor that can capture the mood and emotion of a book like this and really engage me in the book even now some time later I can recall the jinni and his often bemused and sometimes baffled tone while addressing the many strange customs of the new world he finds himself in.
The jinni for sure, if you could get him to tell you tales of hundreds of years living in a world of spirits and elemental creatures that would be awesome!
This was probably not a book I would have bought on the publishers description alone but the personal reviews were so positive that I took a chance and was very happy that I did. I have already recommended this to several of my friends as a story this well told crosses genres in its ability to grab hold of a reader and keep them there.
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