The Golem and the Jinni

by Helene Wecker

Book, 2013

Barcode

123460775

Call number

FIC WEC

Collection

Publication

New York, NY : HarperCollins 2013

Description

Chava, a golem brought to life by a disgraced rabbi, and Ahmad, a jinni made of fire, form an unlikely friendship on the streets of New York until a fateful choice changes everything.

Media reviews

The title characters of “The Golem and the Jinni” are not the book’s only magic. The story is so inventive, so elegantly written and so well constructed that it’s hard to believe this is a first novel. Clearly, otherworldly forces were involved.
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You think a relationship is complicated when a woman is from Venus and a man is from Mars? Trust me, that’s a piece of cake compared with the hurdles that a modest golem and a mercurial jinni face when they fall in love.
The sometimes slow pace picks up considerably as the disparate characters decipher the past and try to save the souls variously threatened by the golem and the jinni, as well as by the Jewish conjurer and (surprise) a Syrian wizard. The interplay of loyalties and the struggle to assert reason over
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emotion keep the pages flipping.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member Meredy
Six-word review: Complex and satisfying modern fairy tale.

Extended review:

What can you be when being what you were born to be becomes impossible?

That question is the core issue for two finely wrought characters, a golem (a woman made of clay and animated by Kabbalistic magic) and a jinni (genie)
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trapped in a copper flask for a millennium. Both emerge in 1899 New York and find themselves unlikely comrades in the struggle to pass as ordinary human beings when their true nature has been denied: hers by losing the master whom she was created to serve and his by being held captive under a spell he can't break.

In their alienness they are kindred spirits of a sort. And in their alienness they speak to those of us who have at some time--or at all times?--felt that we did not belong among our fellow creatures. Kept from self-realization by powers they can't escape, they can only choose between self-redefinition and self-extinction. A common adversary forces them to confront their own ultimate questions.

Imaginative, atmospheric, and searching, Wecker's novel draws upon the folktales of two traditions and the elements of several immigrant subcultures to create an original urban fantasy that resonates with the eternal human mystery: what am I, who am I, and what shall I do? Her insightful treatment of both principal and secondary characters and their environments confers the richness and depth that turn a story into an experience.
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LibraryThing member lilithcat
In The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker imagines the meeting of legendary beings from two disparate cultures, the man-created golem of Eastern European Jewish lore, and the God-created spirit of Islamic theology, the jinn. Chava, the golem, has lost her master, who died at sea as they traveled to
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New York. Ahmad, the jinn, is also master-less on being accidentally freed from his copper flask prison. Wecker has done a beautiful job in imagining and describing their histories, their desires and fears, their unmoored lives, as well as the back stories of other characters. Her description of the Lower East Side of 1899 was quite well-done. I was bothered, however, by a large chunk in the middle of the book in which, after having been connected, the stories separated, and this became, for a time, like two different books. The ending, too, was a bit pat and unsatisfying. Nevertheless, this is, on the whole, a fine début novel, and I hope that Wecker will continue to write.
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LibraryThing member lkernagh
My forays into fantasy fiction tend to lean towards books like this one with elements of fantasy but still grounded in the more familiar territory of our geography, culture and history. Chava and Ahmad are delightful characters. Their wonderment - and confusion - at the environment they find
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themselves in doesn't come across as some shoddy fabrication or as being out of place for their surroundings. The teeming immigrant community of Lower Manhattan is richly captured in the characters of the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, the ice cream maker Saleh, the kindly Rabbi Meyer, Meyer's beleaguered nephew Michael and the Syrian tinsmith Boutros Arbeely. While the golem and the jinni may have top billing in this story, the other characters are far from being relegated to mere supporting cast roles. I found the story to be shrouded in a sense of calmness and beauty, even during the climactic bits, like one might feel as though they were experiencing everything as a peaceful dream.

What really sold me on this one is the pace of the story. Some readers may find the story a bit slow in places, with a little too much time spend setting the stage or describing landmarks but for me, the pace was just right. That, and I really enjoyed the visits to the parks, seeing the Washington Square Arch through the eyes of Chava and Ahmad and traveling the rooftops of Lower Manhattan. So why not a full 5 stars for a rating? Well, the ending felt a bit flat to me and a couple of pieces left me somewhat confused, but overall, a delightful reading experience.

This is a story to sink into, like a luxurious bubble bath or a calm sea, allowing the gentle lapping of the story to carry you away. It is a wonderful blending of folk mythology and historical fiction. Of cultural differences, desires and consequences. But more importantly, it is about the power of friendship and being able to forgive.
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LibraryThing member ltcl
The Golem and the Jinni is the perfect match for readers who enjoy historical fiction and a touch of fantasy. Set in New York City around the turn of the century amongst the ethnic neighborhoods that make the city great, we get a feel for what life must have been like for the recent transplants
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from Europe and the Middle East. Chava, our golem, was created as a mate for a lonely man and as they make their way across the Atlantic something horrible happens leaving Chava to fend for herself. It is a golem's nature to do the bidding of her master so being without a master leaves her hearing the wishes of everyone else. She tries to blend in and do good things but life in this new country is not an easy one. Our jinni has been bound into servitude by a wizard and has been released by a gentle tinsmith in New York. He is named Ahmed and goes about with a bit more freedom than Chava but still enslaved none the less. Helene Wecker does a masterful job weaving these two mythical beings into the very real lives of the immigrants of New York. Their story mirrors the experiences that all immigrants have shared during that time - keeping the old traditions alive while trying to embrace all that is new.
I was fortunate enough to read the advance of this book which is due to be published in April.
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LibraryThing member suetu
Creatures of earth and fire connect in a dazzling debut

There is a certain satisfaction in coming to the end of a long novel, but as the pages dwindled on Helen Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni, all I felt was grief that this magical story had to end. After 500 pages, I wanted it to go on and on.
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And if you stop reading this review right now, that’s all you really need to know.

You will be shocked to hear that the novel is, in fact, about a golem and a jinni. For those who are unaware, a golem is a figure of Jewish myth, an automaton made of earth or clay, brought to life to do the bidding of another. A jinni (or genie) is a figure of Arab myth, a magical creature of fire. So, before we even get into plot details, look at that fascinating set-up! Jewish/Arab. Earth/fire. Just hearing the premise, I anticipated some sort of culture clash to be central to the tale. And while the story does primarily unfold amongst the Jewish and Syrian immigrant populations of late 19th century New York, it is not a parable of Mid-East conflict. This was merely the first of many instances when Ms. Wecker defied convention and expectation, keeping me guessing in what direction her tale would evolve, again and again.

Talk about defying convention—the titular golem is a woman, and self-aware. She was originally created (with a laundry list of attributes that included intelligence, curiosity, and propriety) to be a rich merchant’s wife. He, alas, died en route to America, shortly after bringing her to life. She arrived at Ellis Island without a master or a plan. The jinni, on the other hand, was freed from imprisonment in a flask—but don’t expect him to start granting wishes any time soon.

This is the story of two creatures in turn of the century New York who are both Old Worldly and otherworldly. Separately, they must find their way in circumstances that neither is prepared for, all the while concealing their essential natures. As the golem says to the jinni, “We’re our natures, you and I.” Because, yes, eventually their paths do cross and it’s the start of a most unexpected friendship.

Can I tell you? This wonderful, literary fantasy left me wanting to slap the next writer who sits down in front of a keyboard and starts typing about a vampire. Ms. Wecker has created a story unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Her central characters, while not human, share a deep humanity (for better or worse) and are beautifully drawn. Other characters, which at first seem peripheral to the tale, prove to be central, as Wecker’s story expands encompassing a larger community. And at all times the relationships depicted between men, women, creatures, adults, children, friends, lovers, and enemies were complex, unpredictable, and captivating. The novel’s prose is as rich as the period setting is evocative. And while I really haven’t gone into any detail, please know that the plotting is both elegant and assured.

Of course, there IS culture clash in this novel, and conflict galore. But in every instance that her tale could be ordinary, Ms. Wecker makes it extraordinary. The lush cultures, heritage, and history depicted so beautifully are merely the jumping off point for a dazzlingly inventive fantasy. Where did this writer come from, and how is it possible that this accomplished work is her debut? It is sure to be one of the literary highlights of the year!
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LibraryThing member krau0098
I got a copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. I was very excited to read this book, it just sounded so unique. After reading it though I was a bit disappointed. It starts very slow, the story does pick up over time. In the end though it was a very long and wordy historical
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fantasy that probably could've been much shorter.

The main story is about two magical creatures, a Golem and a Jinni who find themselves in New York City in the early 1900's. Both arrive under strange circumstances and struggle to make a life for themselves entwined with the hustle and bustle of humanity.

The book diverts to a number of side stories about the people who live in New York City and touch the Golem’s (Chava) and Jinni’s (Ahmed) lives. As such, it is told from a plethora of points of view. I felt that this made the story drag out and at points it felt very fractured. In general, while it was an interesting concept, I had trouble staying engaged with the book and constantly found myself falling asleep while reading it.

The Golem and Jinni are both interesting characters. Watching them struggle to hide their natures from the general populace was interesting. It was also interesting how polar opposite they were. The Golem was made to be the perfect wife; as such she is intelligent, conservative, and incredibly thoughtful of those around her. She can hear people’s thoughts and is constantly trying to make them happy. The Jinni on the other hand is volatile, arrogant, and constantly leaving a line of conquests in his wake. Their stories offset each other nicely.

Unfortunately it takes a long time for the story to get going. I also found the style of writing somewhat hard to read, it just didn’t flow all that well. As a result I struggled through the first couple hundred pages, constantly falling asleep over the book and skimming pages to get to some actual solid content. Seriously, I was slapping myself trying to stay awake to read this book. It got better in the second half of the book after all of the characters were introduced and we could finally focus on the story and plot.

This ends up being more a story about a living thing’s struggle to live, than an actual fantasy. There is a lot about human nature and how people find purpose to their daily lives. So yeah, this is one of those kind of books.

It was an interesting look at life in New York City in the early 1900's. I really enjoyed the glimpse into New York City’s past and reading about how things were for immigrants back then. That was probably the most enjoyable aspect of this book for me.

The book wraps up well enough, if a bit too neatly and conveniently.

Overall an okay read. I enjoyed the contrasting natures of the Jinnin and the Golem and how their stories contrasted each other. I also enjoyed the historical aspects of the story being set in New York City in the early 1900’s. I did not enjoy the incredibly slow pace or the numerous and rambling points of view. They compare this book to The Night Circus, and I would definitely recommend reading The Night Circus over this book...that’s a much better book.
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LibraryThing member ScribbleKey
I got about halfway through and was bored to tears. I was really looking forward to this one after reading the reviews, but it's just not my thing, I guess.
LibraryThing member Charon07
Some interesting underlying themes about free will, but ultimately not that compelling for as intriguing as the premise was to this fantasy fan.
LibraryThing member Jaylia3
The Golem and the Jinni more than lives up to the promise of its irresistible premise--two mythical beings with very different natures meet and form an uneasy bound in 1899 New York City. The Golem, a woman made of clay, was created by a former rabbi who dabbles in forbidden arts; the Jinni, a man
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made of fire, has been trapped inside a copper flask for a thousand years, but can't remember how he got there. United by a restlessness resulting from having to mask their true identities and make lives in a place that's foreign to both of them, the Golem and the Jinni spend the long nighttime hours roaming the immigrant neighborhoods of their adopted home together, but a menace from the past is stalking them.

The many strands of this story are slowly but mesmerizingly woven together, with some plot line connections not revealed until almost the end of the book. I haven't enjoyed a total immersion in such a rich and magic-tinged world since Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
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LibraryThing member IamIndeed
While I was initially drawn to this title simply by the title, this has become one of my favorite reads this year. Combining the feel of a fairy tale with a romance and mixing in a serious underlying story that weaves in cultures, history, and folklore to create a tale of the immigrant experience
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that is unlike any I have ever read.

The Golem; Chava, is a figure born from clay and known in the lore of the Eastern European Jews. Ahmad, the Jinni, is born of the fire in the Bedouin camps in the Syrian desert. Together the essence of who they are is trapped in human forms, as they are navigating the immigrant neighborhoods and experiences of 1890’s New York. These two very disparate characters manage to form a friendship and ultimately a bond that traverses their cultural differences and the pull of their destinies against their desires and free will.

Solidly researched and impeccably characterized, the story carefully and precisely wends its way through the immigrant neighborhoods as it carefully lays groundwork to bring all of the pieces together at the end. Both Ahmad and Chava have knowledge and magic that can be used to alter and change perceptions or situations, should they, could they and will they utilize this for noble or selfish purpose. All will be answered when your travel through the streets and neighborhoods of New York.

As a first novel, this couldn’t have been better. Never did the story suffer from an overload of information or descriptions, nor was the pacing impacted as the information was presented. Every character is well defined and built and minute details are not missed, the neighborhoods and people fairly come to life in your imagination. The book is enchanting and will please many readers from all walks of life.

I received an eBook copy from the publisher from Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
The story is set in New York in 1899 and involves immigration of people from East Europe and the Middle East. In the process of coming to the US, the Golem (Jewish) arrives without her master and the Jinni is accidentally loosed from his copper flask by the metalsmith. I liked the story well
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enough, it was filled with interesting characters and i enjoyed learning more about Golems after first reading about them in The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay and the Jinni. They really were polar opposites in nature and beings that were not very stable. The Jinni went around seeking his own pleasure without any concern for the harm it might do to others and the Golem was overly concerned about others. I didn’t especially like one section and that was the part that made wild statements about the smallness of gods, and arbitrary truth, etc but it was shortlived. I think the author did a tremendous job with this debut novel. The story pulled you into it though I thought it took about half the book to get really interesting and the ending was satisfying.
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LibraryThing member c.archer
What an amazing story! At first I was hesitant about reading this book. It didn't seem like my style, and I have so many other books to read. When I found it available on-line through the library, I decided to give it a chance. I am so glad that I checked it out. It is magical. The supernatural
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mixed with history and interesting and unusual characters all merged to make this a totally original story. I have not read one quite like it. If you have a yearning for a story that will take you out of yourself and put you into a world of fancy and adventure, then this is the book. It is undoubtedly one of my top reads for the year.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
A golem and a jinni forge a friendship after finding themselves adrift in New York City at the cusp of the twentieth century.

This book has an interesting fairy-tale premise. The two protagonists are non-human creatures (with very human emotions) from two distinct cultures. The Golem is made of clay
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and brought to life by a Jewish mystic; she is intended to be the wife of the man who commissioned her, but he died on the voyage to New York. The Jinni was imprisoned in a bottle for a thousand years, only released accidentally when a tinsmith attempts to repair the bottle, but is still trapped in human form. They are both unusual immigrants to America, trying to fit in but aware they do not belong, without master or purpose. Then they find each other and instantly recognize their commonality. So they become friends, and an unlikely romance blooms.

The setting that Wecker creates is fantastically detailed. As the Golem and Jinni explore New York, she shows all sides of the bustling, growing city, from the Jewish neighborhood and little Syria, to the rooftops of tenements, the houses of the wealthy, and the immensity of Central Park. The city was my favorite character in the novel, followed by the Jinni, who I felt we got to know the best--probably because so much (too much?) of his back story was provided.

My quibbles are mainly with the book's length, which I felt was excessive. There seems to be a tendency now to let novels run long, which is not good for a reader who finds getting through all those pages becoming tedious. I felt this when reading The Goldfinch, and again while reading this novel. I generally love long novels, but they must be truly epic to deserve the length, set in an immense world with a large cast of characters we can come to know. (My favorite examples are probably The Stand, Game of Thrones and Lonesome Dove.) This book is not an epic, nor should it be. It could have used a bit of editing, and the plot seems to drift untethered just for the sake of adding more words.

I also was mystified by the Golem's character. I didn't really understand what she was exactly. She comes across as human, with human emotions, and I couldn't figure out if they were her feelings innately or if they were imbued in her by her creator. Her struggle with her monstrous side --the golem is described as inevitably losing control and going on a rampage--isn't as pronounced as I thought it should be.

Another character that disappointed me was Sophia, the daughter of a wealthy family who is seduced early on by the Jinni. She was the character who most intrigued me, representing perhaps a change in values from 19th century to 20th century. But her character gets short shrift, in my opinion, and her story is not satisfactorily concluded.

The Golem and the Jinni was a book I liked but didn't love. I enjoyed the insertion of fantastical elements into a historical setting, and also learning about mythical creatures that we don't usually see in fantasy. I did feel, though, that it could have been a better book, and a shorter one.

Read for book club (2014).
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LibraryThing member Lindoula
Seriously impressed with this book! I think the ending could've been better, but the storytelling here was captivating.
LibraryThing member Pabkins
A young America, during the big heyday of Ellis Island - two unlikely immigrants find their way to Manhattan, New York. The Golem and the Jinni. So far from the places they originate these two very different creatures are caught up in a human world, the only ones of their kind.

If you were to think:
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why this book sounds rather somber, you wouldn't be far from the mark. Indeed it was somber, yet equal parts haunting and beautiful. This isn't just a story of two fantasy beings but one of self discovery, compassion, learning to adapt, to accept and ultimately to love. This could be the tale of any person who walked off a boat at Ellis Island. They could have felt such things, seen this time and have felt just as alien and isolated, in a land not their own, surrounded by all manner of people they might not understand.

I have never read a book that took place during this time period in American history. Have I read about it in school, yes. Did I find it depressing then? Pretty much. I've never really been a fan of history always being more inclined to science fiction and the future. So I have to admit there were parts of this story that were depressing but there was also such a sense of community and support that it couldn't have been anything other than uplifting.

By mixing two such wonderful creatures into her alternate history fantasy novel, Wecker has given me a new found love for historical fiction. There were the occasional parts that I felt dragged on - but this was due to the wealth of character development and background story that she was building. With that said, readers more inclined to a fast paced read won't find that here. instead you'll walk the streets of old New York, time and time again and see the every day lives of the immigrants that helped build the country we now live in.

The Jinni, who takes the name of Ahmad is released by a tinsmith who then takes him on as an apprentice. Used to a life of freedoms he finds his new life to be a prison. He is brash and selfish, rarely thinking beyond himself and his own whims. He knows himself and what he wants but he will discover that perhaps there is more to himself than desire and impulse and that there is much more to humans and others than he ever could have imagined.

While Ahmad has always known who he is for hundreds of years, The Golem, Chava, has only just started her life. Having been created from clay all she knows was that her purpose for being was to serve a master. But when her master leaves her untimely (heck more than untimely lets say hours after her awakening) she has to find her own way (alright with a bit of help) and discover some other meaning to her life than serving others.

When their paths converge they see each in the other something that they both sorely need a confidante and a friend. Reading The Golem and the Jinni was like watching a fantastical historical documentary on the lives and loves of two people you only wish you could have known. I highly recommend it, even to those who wouldn't normally read this type of novel, this is the one you need to step outside your comfort zone for.
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LibraryThing member Borrows-N-Wants
What a wonderful book! It is extremely well written, and it seems that it was researched thoroughly. The story takes place in 1899 New York in two distinct neighborhoods: Syrian and Jewish.

I was not that familiar with the mythology of the jinni before reading this, and I had never heard of a golem
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before. Wecker does a great job of giving these characters interesting backstories and believable personalities. I especially loved Chava and could relate to her in a lot of ways.

It takes quite a few pages for the jinni and the golem to finally meet one another, but it doesn't feel like a long time because Wecker's descriptions of the scenery and the time and other character's backstories are so interesting.

I especially love how Wecker compared the differing personalities of the golem and the jinni and exposed how they are similar in very human ways. While doing this, she brings up some intriguing insights into human psychology, religion, and philosophy without being heavy handed.

The author is great at intertwining all of the characters stories together into one amazing story- everyone from the main characters to the little boy down the road to the ice cream vendor to the director of a Jewish boarding house.

I read this for book club and I probably wouldn't have chosen it on my own, but I am so glad that I read it! I would strongly recommend this to anyone interested in mythological fiction, historical fiction, or literary fiction.
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LibraryThing member rabidgummibear
3.5
The story is very windy and i spent a lot of time checking how far into the audio book I was. It felt like ages until the plot really got going. The Golem and Jinni were both very interesting characters surrounded by interesting people, but almost too much detail was put into their
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relationships. Though once the ending rolled around I felt it was all pretty well placed. I just wish the novel was paced better to allow a bit more enjoyment of it all.

It's definitely a bit of a drag, but if you are willing to stick it out the ending is quite good!
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LibraryThing member ireneattolia
just leave me here to cry
LibraryThing member BethEtter
I haven't given a 5 star rating to a book in years. This one is a delight. I was pulled through every minute of it and was completely satisfied with the ending. Lovely.
LibraryThing member JBD1
One of the best debut novels I've read this year. I very much enjoy a book where I can just dive in and get lost in the world the author has created, and Helene Wecker certainly provided that opportunity in The Golem and the Jinni. Her intertwined exploration of the golem and jinni traditions, but
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set in 1899 New York, makes for a riveting and original story.

Extremely impressive, and very highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member ssimon2000
First book of 2016 to enter my “Favorites” shelf!

This book had a great impact on me, especially the parts of the story with the Jewish background. My father is a second-generation Jewish immigrant; his parents came through Ellis Island in the early 1900s, like many characters in this book.
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While I’m not Jewish myself, I’m very familiar with the attitudes and the mannerisms they brought with them, and could probably quote a few Yiddish sayings myself, if pressed.

I don’t usually start a review of an audiobook by talking about the narrator, but narrator George Guidall was simply amazing. He captured the feel of the book perfectly, and his accents for both the Jewish immigrants and the Syrian immigrants and Bedouins were spot-on. There was never any doubt who the villains were, simply based on the voices he chose. I’ll definitely be looking for more narration by Mr. Guidall.

The author clearly conducted much research regarding setting, culture, and behaviors of different groups of people, and it shows dramatically throughout the book. Naturally, early 1900s New York is a richly-imagined location; it is the main setting of the book, after all. Woven throughout the book is a glimpse of Jewish life in Poland and New York, and of the Syrian Desert in the late 1800s and a thousand years earlier with the Bedouins. These cultural details might seem cumbersome, but were well-integrated throughout the book, and become vital to the storyline itself.

The female Golem, created to be a wife of a socially-inept Jewish man and brought to life on a ship crossing the Atlantic, has no experience of anything prior to the voyage. She is sensitive to the feelings of others and has to learn how to control herself in the presence of others who are harboring strong emotions. She also requires explanations of things that a “normal” person wouldn't require, having to learn even the most basic things and tasks.

The male Jinni, inadvertently released from a copper flask by a Syrian metal worker, has little experience with humankind. He is all about living for the moment, like the fleeting “dust devil” that he is. He also requires explanations of “modern” society, struggling to find a place in which he fits it.

Of the two title characters, the Golem was the most sympathetic; she had the most to lose: she could be destroyed with the turn of a specific phrase. The Jinni was a lot more careless and carefree, which have been more of a reflection of culture. It was also in the characters' natures -- a Golem is creature made to serve a master, whereas a Jinni would naturally be free and might move from place to place as he so desired.

The book alternates between chapters about the Golem and chapters about the Jinni, with an occasional chapter or scene about another character (Yehudah Schaalman, a disgraced Jewish rabbi; Fadwa, a Bedouin girl; Mahmoud Saleh, a Syrian doctor; Sophia Winston, a New York heiress). The Golem (named Chava) and the Jinni (named Ahmad), interact with these and others in and around their communities, including the people who took them in (for the Golem, an aging rabbi, and for the Jinni, a Syrian tinsmith). The scenes from these other points of view were interspersed perfectly throughout the book, both chronologically and narratively, giving vital clues at the right times. The book was obviously well-thought out in advance.

The magic in this book is both cultural and religious. Golems come from Jewish lore, while Jinnis are Arab in origin. Other dark magic is hinted at throughout the book. Before starting the book, I thought it was going to be a “Jewish Golem” and a “Muslim Jinni”, and all that interaction would entail, but interestingly, while the Golem and her protectors/mentors were obviously Jewish, the Arabs were actually Syrian Christians, Orthodox in their beliefs. It wasn’t a primary focus in the storyline, but it popped up a few times, especially nearing the end of the book in a tangential plot line.

There is not a lot of action in this book. It is a deep book with many layers to peel back and examine. In that respect, this book would be great for book clubs and literature classes to read and analyze. There is simply so much mixed into this book, that it would take many readings to capture it all. The author sets many, many plot points in motion at the start, and many of these plot lines are obscure at first. But like a master weaver, she slowly starts bringing threads together to form a tapestry of immense proportion, culminating with a final confrontation as epic as the beginning was subtle.

Overall, this did not feel like a debut novel. The author has presented an extremely strong book that many more experienced authors would struggle with. Ms. Wecker is methodical in her presentation, taking time to illustrate specific cultural points, and how they played a part in Chava’s and Ahmad’s lives. This attention to detail makes for a very vivid read, both beautiful and tragic in its telling. I’m sorry that I waited to read/listen to it.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
Summary/Review:
This engaging novel is set in the immigrant communities of lower Manhattan circa 1900. A woman made of clay - a golem named Chava - finds herself stranded alone in the Lower East Side after the man who would've been her master dies on the passage across the Atlantic. A jinni named
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Ahmad is freed from a metal flask after 1000 years of captivity to fin himself at a tinsmith in Little Syria. Both Chava and Ahmad have to find ways to fit in with their human society, but it's interesting that Chava, created to be a slave, has trouble adjusting to having free will, while Ahmad, once a powerful king, has to adjust to his more humble circumstances. That they meet and befriend one another is no surprise, and it's a relationship that proves mutually beneficial. In many ways this is an immigrant tale within a magical realism setting. Eventually, an old antagonist arrives, and the golem and the jinni need to fight to save themselves, which I understand is necessary to create conflict and resolution, but ultimately I enjoy the earlier parts of the novel where they are establishing themselves and finding their place better. There is a host of endearing supporting characters including Rabbi Meyer who recognizes Chava as a golem and takes her under his wing and Boutros Arbeely who forms a partnership with Ahmad in tinsmithing. Guidall does some incredible voicework bringing all the characters to life in the audiobook.
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LibraryThing member emeraldreverie
I *thoroughly* enjoyed this book. It drew me in and refused to let go. A fascinating build up with a nice chewy density that wasn't too tough or flighty. I truly cared about the characters and the settings. Very well done.
LibraryThing member ElleGato
Oh reading this book was such a wonderfully immersive experience.

Stories in set in New York City can sometimes ring hollow, or synthetic, or overly sentimental but this one doesn't. The direct writing allows for subtle emotion and evocation without ever overwhelming the characters that make up this
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story.

And it also helps that this isn't just a New York story--it's burdened with the histories of its characters and it's livened with their cultures and communities, their islands of family and togetherness in a new world. It's a story with global roots that span seas and neighborhoods. There is a wide cast of characters but each has a purpose and each are confronted in their own way with choices that require sacrifice and come with consequences.

It's an immigrant story, and a very good, subtle one. It's also a transformation story but one that succeeds in staying true to the very natures and histories and truths of its characters. Change comes with consequence and regret and difficulty and sometimes bloodshed, and it never comes completely. But this rings so poignantly true that the book's power is heightened by its refusal to allow any of its characters a blank slate--for who would want that?

I look forward to the sequel; I can't wait to fall back into the wonder this author has woven
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LibraryThing member ThePortPorts
I loved this book. It's well-written, deep, original and yet very familiar. I loved each page.

The Golem and the Jinni are well-crafted characters - they draw on real folklore and myth, and yet move beyond their storybook histories to emerge in early America as fully-fledged beings. I enjoyed this a
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lot.

I also enjoyed the view into human nature through characters who are, very clearly, not human. Their struggles to walk among humankind without alarming the masses are difficult, alienating, even frightening. They both do it different ways, and present different faces to the world - but in the end, The Golem and the Jinni are both climbing the same mountain.

I don't want to say to much. This book holds much magic. There are many threads here, and "coincidences" that end up not being coincidences. Everything in this novel is here on purpose. The end of the book holds a great pay-off for careful reading.

And the reading is a joy. Wecker's prose is clean, interesting, and dynamic. The novel is well-paced, and I was never bored or looking to just move to another section.

I will absolutely read Wecker's next book. I'm almost sad to learn that it's a sequel, though; I rather enjoyed the untold future I imagined for them. To me, this one ended exactly as it should have.
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Original publication date

2013-04-23

ISBN

0062110848
Page: 0.2977 seconds