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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, April 2013 - The Golem and the Jinni delivers the glimpses into the past that make historical fiction so satisfying, combined with the power of well-told fantasy. New York at the dawn of the 20th century is a city teeming with life as newly-arrived immigrants find their footing in an unfamiliar land. This cultural melting pot is manifested in the story's two titular characters: the golem, a figure from Jewish myth, and the jinni, a spirit from Arabian folklore. The two creatures - normally bidden to serve human masters -find themselves unmoored by circumstances and with no one to serve. Their chance meeting begets an unforgettable journey through the lovingly-crafted city, and provides an outsider's perspective on both the mundane and transcendent in the human experience. Even if fantasy isn't normally in your wheelhouse, this incredible premise – paired with George Guidall’s performance - is sure to deliver. —Michael, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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

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Well done !!

Well written fantasy for adults, which there seems to be a dearth of these days.
The narration was top notch, Bravo !!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This is an wonderful book performed flawlessly

Any additional comments?

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. <br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>George Guidall's performance is outstanding. He never over emotes or over acts yet he manages to convey the emotional senses of every character. <br/><br/>Highly recommended

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Steph
  • United States
  • 07-15-13

A new favorite! Comforting and thought provoking..

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Sad it ended

This is a wonderful book. It's well written, well narrated and pulls you right in. This book is so thorough in all its descriptions that you feel like you are sucked back in time. You can easily imagine being in the dessert, Syria, a boat treaking to America and the little villages of New York. I was shocked how much I came to care for the golem. I wish this were a series, but I can't see anywhere that it's going to be.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Enthralling

I am absolutely enthralled.
I am only about 1/3 into the book, and I hope it will never end.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Lorraine
  • Townsend, GA, United States
  • 05-28-13

Excellent Story..Wonderful Characters

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • MONTVILLE, NJ, United States
  • 05-26-13

Part folktale and part history

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Hard to believe it's a debut novel- great fantasy!

If you claim you like fantasy but you don't like this book, then what you like is silly wizards and hot werewolf-on-chick action, or else secondary world fantasy with elves and dragons and lost swords, etc., which is all well and good but I'm gonna be totally judgmental about any so-called fantasy fan who doesn't like this book because it's "too long" or too "slow-moving" or whatever stupid reason it failed to score with you. The Golem and the Jinni is a carefully constructed modern fable written as seriously as any historical literary fiction. The main characters, two creatures right out of Jewish and Arabic myth, blend perfectly into this novel of early 20th century New York. What is more fantastic than that?

It's a rich book, reading at times like one of those sweeping classic character epics like Middlemarch or Les Miserables (but not as wordy and with far less infodumping). There are a fairly large number of characters, each with a character arc that runs the length of the book, eventually tying into the resolution.

We start in 1899 in Poland with an unpleasant fellow who has been successful in business but due to being a poorly socialized schmuck, unsuccessful in matrimony. Rather than figuring out how to woo the ladies properly, he gets the bright idea to go to a local rabbi rumored to know dark Kabbalistic magic, and asks him to make him a wife.

Helene Wecker does a wonderful job of describing just the sort of loser who'd buy a RealDoll. Since this is 1899, he buys a golem instead.

Unlike RealDolls, golems can walk, talk, and think. They have their own personalities and desires — a fact upon which much of what follows hinges, as the golem's master-to-be specifies "curiosity" along with "modesty" and "obedience" for his clay bride.

Unfortunately, there is also another little detail from Jewish legends that Helene Wecker weaves skillfully into the story: deep down, golems are murderous creatures who will eventually turn on their masters and have to be destroyed.

Golem legends were of course the precursor to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Chava is not nearly so tragic — she awakens in the hold of a ship (her "husband" couldn't wait), but when her "husband" dies, she finds herself alone in New York City — obedient, modest, and curious. She knows what she is, but not what to do with herself. She is constructed such that she can pass as a human, so she manages, awkwardly, to integrate herself into New York's Jewish immigrant community, finding that her tirelessness and precision makes her very good at useful skills like baking and sewing.

Meanwhile, in the Syrian immigrant community, a tinsmith named Boutros Arbeely is brought an old copper flask to repair. He manages to open it and release a jinni who's been trapped in the flask for a thousand years. "Ahmad," as he calls himself, has a very different personality than Chava. He is a creature of fire and caprice, bound to a human form. He's not evil or cruel, but he's used to doing what he pleases without worrying about consequences. His jinni powers make him an able assistant to Boutros Arbeely, but the mundanity of life among humans is soon driving him mad.

Eventually, by chance, the golem and the jinni meet. They are both the ultimate foreigners in a sea of immigrants. Despite being from different worlds, they understand each other better than even the few humans who know their natures can. Their friendship is perfect, awkward, believable, and of course, it gets sorely tested.

As a fantasy novel, The Golem and the Jinni succeeds because it makes golems and jinni fit in a perfectly believable fashion into the tapestry of early 20th century life. It's not a "secret wizarding world" setting — it's just a world where some of those old legends might actually be true. There aren't vampires and faeries and wizards everywhere, but here and there, if you look for it, there's a bit of magic. The magic isn't the point, though it's much more than just an incidental background detail. The natures of the golem and the jinni and the magic that forms them play critical roles in the climax, but this is a character-driven novel. Chava and Ahmad are both great protagonists. Chava is wise and kind and well-intentioned, but she's not a perfect helpmate — she becomes frustrated and bored with people, and deep in her heart is that murderous golem nature she's not yet even aware of. Ahmad is kind of a jerk — he likes building pretty things, seducing mortal women, and then moving on — but forced to live on the ground among mankind, he's also forced to confront their reactions to his actions. He's still impatient, petty, and arrogant, but he's not without scruples or compassion.

The secondary characters fill in the edges of the story. "Ice Cream Saleh," a one-time learned physician possessed by an evil spirit, cursed to never look another person in the face until he sees a man of flame on the streets of New York City. The kindly Rabbi Meyer, who recognizes Chava for what she is, and his nephew Michael, an apostate Jew who runs a shelter for new immigrants and falls in love with Chava, having no idea what she is. There are many other characters whose stories intersect Chava's and Ahmad's, ending with a confrontation with Chava's creator, who has a connection to the events Ahmad has forgotten that sealed him in his flask a thousand years ago.

This is Helene Wecker's debut novel, but I would never have thought it was a first novel. And unlike so many debut fantasy novels, it's entirely self-contained. Wecker probably could write a sequel, but I think rather than simply continuing the story of Chava and Ahmad, she'd do much better to write another book like this but with a completely different setting and characters. I will definitely read it!

This is the sort of thick, juicy fantasy that should appeal to all fans of thick juicy fantasies and historical fiction alike. Rich in characters and setting details, judicious about using magic as a plot device, not a character, a mystical force that doesn't need to be meticulously systemitized to make sense. The Golem and the Jinni is literary fantasy that doesn't fill its pages with unnecessary side trips into some hidden magical world just to detail other creatures; it spends its time on character development and describing a vivid turn-of-the-century New York populated by immigrants of all kinds. My highest recommendation!

George Guidall is one of my favorite narrators, and once again he delivers an excellent performance for a weighty historical epic.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan
  • Bartonville, TX
  • 07-20-13

Complex Supernatural

This book starts out as two separate stories, one of a Jin (genie), the other of a Golum ( a being made from the earth but looks human). Both seem to go against the norm of their predisposed brutal reputation. They are innocents hungry for knowledge and work while harboring a feeling of loneliness because neither are living the existence they were meant to.  They are lucky to be taken in by two separate men who are each as kind as the other and want the best for them. 

In early New York a dark fairy tale like listen unfolds as we travel through the mystery that surrounds the creation and past of these two fabled entities.  A quarter way into the book they unexpectedly cross each others paths and immediately recognize their strange similarities.  A much needed friendship starts for these two lonely beings, but because of their friendship and, unknown to them connection, they could stand to be each others undoing.   

Ups and downs, discoveries and diverse characters keeps the story moving forward with a good mixture of events to keep a connection to the listener. Guidall 's  wonderful annunciation of each characters verbiage is of course vital to the pace, and he is just stellar with his, not over the top women characters, and believable dark-siinister villains. I don't think I would have enjoyed this book as much without his narration.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • DIANE
  • Thornhill,, Ontario, Canada
  • 07-24-13

Incredible debut for Helene Wecker

If you could sum up The Golem and the Jinni in three words, what would they be?

fantasy, brilliance, intrigue

What did you like best about this story?

I loved everything about this story. The character development was very good. I don't think I could have had the reaction to this book without George Guidall's incredible narration. I've heard him before and marvel at his talent with voices and intonation.<br/>This book ties together a thousand years and whips back and forth between characters and events... looking inside the mind of the protagonists and actually allowing the reader to contemplate the meaning of life and the lives of the characters in the context of a wildly entertaining twist and turn intrigue. Loved the ending but not giving it away.

What about George Guidall’s performance did you like?

Everything. This man is brilliant and I will choose my books backwards in order to listen to his wonderful voice.

Any additional comments?

Run don't walk to download this book... I had to sit in the car and be late for appointments so that I could hear what was going to happen! The sign of an excellent audiobook. I will probably listen to it a second time to get all the characters and events straight.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful