Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

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Number of pages: 493

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: paperback

Rating: older adults (mature subject matter)

Genre: myth, fantasy, mystery, philosophy

Notes: this is Helene Wecker’s first book

Summary:

A woman made of clay, brought to life by the hands of Yahudah Schaalman, a dangerous and ambitious man who dabbles in dark magic, is named Chava. Her master dies at sea while sailing from Poland. As she reaches New York Harbor, she starts a new life in a small Jewish community where she finds comfort and shelter from an old rabbi. A jinni, a creature made of fire, is trapped and imprisoned in a copper flask for thousand of years until a tinsmith in a small Syrian town releases him, naming him Ahmad. Both creatures are pulled into a strange world as they live among humans while masking their true natures. They eventually cross each other’s path and become unlikely friends. But their friendship comes to a halt when an unseeing threat arrives in both their lives…

My thoughts:

The best book of the fantasy and mythology genre I’ve read. I’m glad a staff member from Chapters made this recommendation or else I miss out in reading a spectacular novel, one that should have been a bestseller! But don’t be fooled by the synopsis. It may sound like a fantasy novel but after reading between the lines, you’ll learn that it’s a serious, meaningful, philosophical piece of literature, with a gripping tale telling the story of a golem and a jinni living in New York 1899.

Wecker pulls you into a mesmerizing story where two strange creatures are torn apart from their world, and venture a new life as mortals. At first, Chava and Ahmad’s new lives seem promising as they learn to behave and make friends with their immigrant neighbours. Each neighbour has their own story, and their lives are intertwined to Chava and Ahmad as they continue living in their neighbourhood and become a part of their lives. Although our creatures learn to mask their identity, the neighbours suspect there is something doubtful about the newly arrivals.

After learning the tragic stories of their past lives, you begin to understand and sympathize with their struggles and fears of living among humans. Chava and Ahmad begin as vulnerable and naïve creatures, but as the story progresses, so do their observation about human nature. As they learn to live among humans, unconsciously, the creatures develop and experience emotions of love, fear, and anxiety. Although new friends and neighbours greet Chava and Ahmad warmly, they feel alienated and long for a relationship with someone who truly understands their worries and desires. But everyday becomes a new experience as they discover new places and acquaintances, and eventually they find each other. But when a dark force threatens to break their relationship, Chava and Ahmad make a fateful decision that will change both their lives forever.

A remarkable story with a tragic and yet, beautiful ending, and a highly recommended read for folklore and fantasy lovers. An unforgettable tale and a marvelous read. The Golem and the Jinni weaves folk mythology, fantasy, mystery, and adventure together with valuable insight on human nature.

This book receives a well-earned 5 hoots.

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