Grade: 4 stars out of 5
Published: April 23, 2013; Harper / hardcover
FTC: ARC provided by publishers for tour
"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."Helene Wecker built a fantastic world in The Golem and the Jinni. In the beginning of the novel, the onslaught of characters was overwhelming. The story does not truly revolve around the golem or the jinni, but rather the communities in which they dwell in. Imagine their tale to be a ball of yarn and slowly it unravels. At the end, all the characters that were introduced, that was originally thought to be irrelevant, were all tied together. Quite honestly, the first half of the novel barely caught my attention, but the last half was a whirlwind of emotions--grief, anger, and finally satisfaction.
Wecker did a wonderful job writing the different lives: Sophia (the wealthy heiress), Saleh (the blind doctor turned ice cream maker), Arbeely (the tinsman), Anna (the charismatic baker), Michael (an atheist and a Rabbi's nephew), Schaalman (an intelligent evil trapped wizard). Somehow or another, Wecker managed to combine this motley crew with the golem and the jinni to create this tale. The golem,named Chava by her guardian Rabbi, was given curiosity intelligence, and properness, but her growth, given those few traits, was expotential. She is a strong heroine, literally and figuratively, but has weak moments of insecurity. The jinni, named Ahmad by Arbeely, was someone who was difficult to sympathized in the start. He was pompous with a full ego, a frivelous attitute towards women, but had moments like Chava of insecuity and homesickness, that was touching. I grew to empathize Ahmad. Chava and Ahmad's character grew to become someone with human qualities despite being made from earth and fire, respectively. In the end, I enjoyed reading all the characters for not one was truly evil. Wecker added depth to her characters and their tale.
I would recommend The Golem and the Jinni to those who enjoy reading character driven plots. It was slow build to the climax, and the climax was worth it.
Visit Helene: website / twitter / facebook
She now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Her first novel, THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI, will be published in April 2013 by HarperCollins.