Monday, February 17, 2014
Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Author: Helene Wecker
Enjoyment Rating: *****
This book would be rated: PG-13, I guess. Plenty of salty language, a little bit of sex
Chava is a golem: a woman made of clay and intended to serve her master, who awakens her on their journey from Poland to New York City and then speedily dies. She's not supposed to be able to live without a master, and just before she gets herself in trouble, a rabbi recognizes what she is and takes her in, hoping to give her a semblance of a normal life-- hoping he doesn't have to destroy her.
Ahmad is a jinni: a man of fire and spirit who had been trapped inside a copper flask for more than a thousand years, awakened only when a New York tinsmith attempts to repair the flask. But Ahmad has been trapped by a former master in human form, and he too has to find a way to blend in to life in New York City at the turn of the century.
Both go through life, struggling to find their way. Chava gets a job at a bakery and a man falls in love with her (much to her horror). The rabbi who cares for her dies. Ahmad hates being bound, hates the mundaneness of the human life. Eventually, the two meet. Neither sleeps, so they go on long rambles around the city, and they find their lives being bound together in ways they could not have predicted.
Wecker does a wonderful job recreating New York City in 1899, and makes her characters rich, complicated, and fanciful. The audio recording of the book is excellent, with George Guidall providing the perfect, haunting narrator. The story, with its flashbacks to Syria in the 800s and its range of magical characters, definitely keeps a reader interested and entertained. It's one of those books that is entertaining and enlightening, and a complete joy to read.