The Golem and the Jinni

golem-and-the-jinni-for-pintrest-stampedI love this book! I usually love action packed stories. This one is not what I’d call action packed but I loved it none the less. This is a story to savor and delight in the beauty of the prose. This is unbelievably Kelene Wecker’s debut novel.

In the US we typically say Jinni (Jee-nee) but the Arabic pronunciation of this word is how Americans pronounce “Gin” or so I learned from this narrator and from my Arabic speaking students.

The Golem and the Jinni

by Helene Wecker

This book is set in turn-of-the-century New York. The Golem, Chava (ha-vah), is created by unethical man who delves into dark magic. The magician creates her to be the wife of a

man named Rochester. Chava’s master dies on their voyage to America and she arrives in New York alone only a few days old. She, a creature built to serve a master, must find a way to survive in the city with no master or purpose. The most difficult part is keeping her true nature a secret from everyone.

The Jinni is released from a copper oil lamp by a tinsmith, Arbeely, who was trying to repair the dented flask. The Jinni, called Ahmad, has no recollection of how he came to be trapped in the lamp. One day he was free, flying above a Syrian desert, in the next moment a thousand years had passed and he was on the other side of the world in the Little Syria part of New York City wearing an iron bracer which kept him trapped in human form.

This oil pitcher is from Turkey rather than Syria and doesn’t contain a Jinni.

Arbeely helps him try to make the best of this life, but it is difficult adjusting to the immense limitations of a human life when you’ve had the freedom of being Jinni.

Chance brings Chava and Ahmad together. Chava’s nature is very grounded. She was created to serve others. Ahmad’s personality is fiery, cavalier,  and passionate. His concern for how others are affected by his action is nearly nonexistent. Chava lives in the Lower East Side immersed in the Jewish culture. Ahmad lives in Little Syria, steeped in Arab culture. As you can imagine, the friendship Chava and Ahmad is not an easy one.

I highly recommend you journey with them as they navigate the risk of discovery, the dangers of evil magic, and explore relationships.

The Writing

The prose in this story is artfully done. It is written in third person and does some head hopping, even within chapters but it is done perfectly. When I head hop it is often an accident and not at all well done. I am going to go back and study how she does this. Her prose in general is done in such a way that it kept me engaged the whole time.

Helene Wecker does lots of research for her novels and it shows. The reader feels like they are there in New York without drowning in excessive description. It is in the details, the way the characters speak, the feel of the cafe, the mannerisms of the character. All of this was done flawlessly.

I listened to the audio book narrated by George Guidall. I can’t rave enough about the narration he did on this book. His accent for the different characters was flawless! I will definitely be looking to see what other books Mr. Guidall has narrated.

The Rating

The only thing that makes me sad is that this book does have a few somewhat graphic sex scene. It describes things that happen behind the bedroom door. I would not recommend this for young readers.

Foul Language: None
Violence: Nothing graphic
Sexual Content: yes, several small scenes
Substance Abuse: yes, one scene with opium
Overall Rating: PG 13


I look forward to reading Helene Wecker’s next book The Iron Season. (2018)



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