Monday, June 15, 2015

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker

Summary:  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.
 (Summary and image from

Review:  Warning; writing a book review months after reading the book is tricky.

So why then did I just not review the book?  Because I found it beautiful.  I loved Wecker's style of writing, and reading after the fact that she chose the heroes she did, a golem and a jinni, to bring to life and to entwine her and her husband's histories further endeared me to the book.

The story feels effortlessly crafted.  It was easy to lose myself in the story, knowing that the golem wasn't ever quite a woman, that the jinni wasn't ever a man.  The threat, which was more layered and complicated than I anticipated, never felt forced.  So many books introduce a threat because the author needs there to be one, but the whole book was so well-crafted, I felt like it had organically sprung from the ground and had been plucked, prepared, and served up by Wecker.  I love books like that.

This wasn't a heart-racing, drop-everything-and-read book, but I would confidently classify it as a perfect rainy day book.

Rating:   Four stars

For the Sensitive reader:  There is a brutal beating of a woman, and as Chava comes to her friend's defense, her attacker is left unconscious and clinging to life.  The jinni seduces a socialite.  The disgraced rabbi, a larger threat than initially perceived, is an overall icky guy.

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