Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker

4 out of 5 Stars

The Blurb

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic, created to be the wife of a man who 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. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

My Thoughts?

A breathtaking and intricately woven historical fantasy that seamlessly blends magic with everyday life in turn-of-the-century America. This novel is a wonderful snapshot of experiences for both Jewish and Syrian immigrants–and what happens when two newly arrived citizens happen to be creatures directly out of fable and legend.

This novel is first and foremost about friendship and human connection–even though the two main characters aren’t exactly human… The slow-burn plot plods along detail by intricate detail, managing to build a whole tale that is profound and heartwarming. The story raises many questions about an individual’s place in the world, higher powers, and what is really means to be alive.

With prose that managed to be both precise and musical, this novel was easy to read despite a story line that could be quite heavy at times. It’s easy to see the comprehensive research that went into painting a realistic vision of New York in 1899 while maintaining a careful balance between truth and folklore. Trigger warnings for murder, self-harm, attempted suicide, mistreatment of mentally ill characters, miscarriage, sexual repression, and enslavement.

Despite a slow start, I really enjoyed The Golem and the Jinni and give it a strong 4 out of 5 stars. This is a wonderful read for lovers of historical fantasy, magical realism, as well as epic fantasy. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Happy Reading!

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