The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni

by Helene Wecker

Overview: In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

Debbie Weiss (08/25/17): This is absolutely a gem of a book! The author creates wonderful mystical creatures for us in the Golem and in the Jinni. Both are recent arrivals in NY in the early 20th century and we follow both of them and their daily activities --- and we see how their lives intersect each other over and over. The Jinnie's background story is handed to us by the author in bits and pieces. I never wanted wanted to put the book down and I definitely did not want it to end. What a delight!
Rating: *****

Gail Reid (05/29/14): I agree with Dale and Ricki that The Golem and the Jinni is an unorthodox and clever tale. Stretch your imagination and take a leap of faith as you follow the adventures of Chava, a golem, made of clay with human attributes and Ahmad, a Syrian jinni, made of fire, and freed from captivity in a flask for 1,000 years. The escapades of these two mythical beings -- as well as a host of other real-life characters in little Syria and the lower east side in turn-of-the-century New York -- transport you to a whole different world in a few hundred pages.
Rating: ****

Ricki Brodie (02/28/14): A hermit rabbi who realized he would never be a “good,” work rabbi, turned into a hermit who practiced the dark magic of Kabbalism. A Polish man who went through his family’s fortune asks the rabbi to create a golem wife. The husband brings the golem to life aboard ship while crossing to New York in 1899, for a fresh start. Unfortunately the man dies at sea. Chave, the wife, arrives, a few days old, and with no knowledge of the world. She is found by anther rabbi who decides to help her.

At the same time a tinsmith is asked to mend an ancient copper flask that has made its way to New York from the Syrian desert. The tinsmith unleashes the jinni from the flask, whom he named Ahmad, a being made of fire. We travel back in time trying to learn just as the Jinni is how he, a strong specimen of his “race,” was trapped in the flask for one thousand years.

These two beings meet, fight and realize that they need each other to survive. The story provides connections between them in a brilliant way and takes the reader to a wonderful climax.
Rating: *****

Dale Israel (08/17/13): Nestled on the book shelves of book stores and in between the covers of Kindles and Nooks, sometimes one is lucky enough to happen across a book that is more than just okay, more than just tasty, it's....(drum roll please)...delicious! These books are often far and few between. In my humble opinion, Helene Wecker's novel, The Golem and the Jinni, is a delectable feast thanks in part to the author's vivid imagination and talent with words. For those of you who have never heard of a Golem, this is part of Jewish mysticim whereby a creature is created out of clay to do one's bidding. Jinni's (genies) are part of Syrian myths. Put the two together in turn of the century New York and what you have is a story of humility and beauty. The last 20% of the book felt like a roller coaster ride to an ending where the final piece of the puzzle is finally put in place. While readers have varying appetites when it comes to literature, those who enjoy creative and perhaps unorthodox novels will find this one to be a jewel. Even at 500 pages I was wanting more. Simply loved it!
Rating: *****

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