The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Summary from Goodreads
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 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. Helene Wecker’s debut novel weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
I almost didn’t finish this one because it had a really slow start for me; there were a lot of characters to meet and some were interesting, others I wasn’t so sure about. There were multiple cultures, eras in time, and settings. At first it took some work to keep it all straight and I wasn’t sure if I cared enough to try. I was curious to see how it would all fit together which kept me reading, and I was eventually drawn in and finished the last 2/3 pretty quickly.
I enjoyed the history, philosophy, and theology woven into the fantasy. By the end I found all of the characters fascinating and intricate. Each gave unique insight into the book’s themes; I appreciated that each had weakness and strength and it was their choices that determined the total sum of each of their parts. When the sequel is available I will likely pick it up.
Age Recommendation: I wouldn’t give this book to my teens. Adult readers with more life experience will relate better to character’s individuals struggles and choices, and the book’s themes.
Appropriateness: Mention of and focus on sex was beyond my comfort level, but not so graphic that it kept me from finishing. I didn’t find the language offensive.
There is plenty of material for book club discussion regarding faith, religion, cultural tradition, immigration, nature vs. nurture, and responsibility for and importance of agency.
Other Book Recommendations: If this book interests you I think you’d also enjoy The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Magician’s Elephant by Katie DiCamillo, The Time Key by Melanie Bateman, and The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.