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As I write this, it’s been a year and a half since I listened to The Golem and the Jinni and I still think about how good it was. Then I feel a pang of guilt that I haven’t reviewed it and spread the love. So here we go.
Details have faded a bit but I do remember that I loved innocent Chava and jaded Ahmad. Chava was literally formed of clay and brought to life by a dark magician. Her master dies within hours of her awakening, leaving her adrift in a world that isn’t very kind to those who are different. Ahmad is woken from his lamp by an unsuspecting tinsmith. He has lived for centuries and his story slowly unfolds throughout the larger book.
The setting of the immigrant communities of 18th century New York is fascinating. Chava is eventually taken in by a kind Jewish rabbi and Ahmad settles in with the tinsmith. Their paths cross and, despite their differences, they each find comfort in the company of another being who is just as much of an outsider as they are.
The story twists and turns in unpredictable ways but it kept me riveted. George Guidhall’s narration was fabulous.
I highly, highly recommend this unexpected story of two outsiders in New York.
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Helene Wecker’s dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. 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.
Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.
Meeting by chance, the two creatures become 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 menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
If you liked The Golem and the Jinni, you might also like my reviews of
- Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Buy The Golem and the Jinni from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC or