Book Reviews

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

15819028[1]“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.” ~Goodreads

There comes a time when a book really stretches the imagination. The Golem and the Jinni is one of them. Not only is it a serious work of literary fiction, it also is a fairy-tale/folklore, examining two different cultures experiencing immigration at the turn of the century but as creatures, not human beings.

As a book club pick at the library, there was much to discuss. While some didn’t feel it worked for them, many found the layers of meaning and storyline to be enthralling:

  • Good vs. Evil
  • Freedom vs. Ownership
  • Free Will vs. Boundaries and Limitations
  • Immigration
  • Jewish and Syrian traditions and culture
  • 1900s New York and the similarities today
  • Science vs. Religion

I also listened to parts of this book via audio and once again it enhanced the story for me. George Guidall’s performance was brilliant. His cadence, tone, shifting of narration and pace made the story come alive for me. He didn’t overdo it with weird female voices or try to “sell” the story I feel some audio performances do.

It’s a great book for book clubs and really recommend the audio version as well. I forgot to mention that it is also a debut and can only imagine what else Wecker has in store for her fans. She even adds (at least in my copy) an interview, questions about the book, background research and some additional reading that also inspired the book, which is like a built-in reader’s advisory! I’m calling movie at some point in the future but not sure how it can be pulled off. Any thoughts on who would be cast as the Golem or the Jinni??

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