Review: The Golem and the Jinni
Title: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker
Genre: Fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
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. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; 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 threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
First time a book has made me cry tears of happiness.
The Golem and the Jinni takes place in turn of the century New York. The city is flooded with immigrant communities trying to make this new place their home. Add to the mix two supernatural creatures from two different countries' folklore, and you get The Golem and the Jinni.
This isn't a very fast book. It's a book about every day life and the little interactions that make you become part of a community - or cast out of one. It is very rich and layered in terms of setting, characters, and storytelling. There are a lot of little moments that really bring out what it is to be human and what it's like to struggle to fit in. I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved that about this novel. It seems that love is in the little things.
Chava and Ahmad are both incredibly different in temperament, but their ultimate struggle is the same. Chava is a creature of clay - a golem - who is compelled to fulfill the wishes of everyone around her (whether they ask for it or not). Ahmad is a creature of fire who loves and lives with passion, with no thought to the ashes and scars he leaves behind. Circumstances bring them both into neighboring communities within New York, and at first they are relieved to find someone else who understands the other's struggle to fit in with humans. But their conflicting natures and goals come in the way of their friendship, and still more sinister forces silently make their way towards them.
Not only was this a beautifully story, the writing was equally gorgeous. Unlike most books, which I want to finish as soon as possible, this was a book that I didn't want to end. As different threads of the story wove together, I was amazed at how intricately everything fit together.
This is easily one of the best books I read in 2013, and definitely one of my all-time favorites. I highly recommend it!