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The Golem and the Jinni
Cover of The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni
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Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. 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.

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become 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 menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. 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.

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become 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 menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Helene Wecker received a BA from Carleton College in Minnesota and an MFA from Columbia University in New York. A Chicago-area native who has made her home in Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York, she now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter. The Golem and the Jinni is her first novel.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The pleasures of this novel lie in its slow unfolding, its careful details of life (both historical and fantastical) in New York's immigrant communities on the cusp of the twentieth century. The plot is as much about Chava the golem and Ahmad the jinni as it is about the interconnected lives of all those they encounter. George Guidall thoughtfully depicts the large cast of characters with subtle and authentic shadings of voice. His deliberate pacing augments the story's unfolding, immersing the listener fully in Wecker's world. The result is something magical, weighted just enough by gritty Lower East Side realism to make it all wholly believable. It's a beautiful listening experience. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 11, 2013
    Wecker's first novel is a magical tale of two mythical creatures—a golem from a Polish shtetl and a jinni from the Syrian Desert—struggling to fit in among New York's turn-of-the-19th-century immigrants. The golem is brought to America by poor furniture maker Otto Rotfeld, who had her built from clay to be his wife, but he dies en route. Elderly Rabbi Avram Meyer, recognizing the tall and hardworking young woman's supernatural character, gives her a name—Chava—and a job in a bakery, but ponders whether to destroy her or let her fulfill a destiny that legend dictates includes mayhem and destruction. Meanwhile, a tinsmith, Boutros Arbeely, releases the jinni from a thousand-year-old flask and names him Ahmad. Proud, handsome Ahmad proves a gifted metalworker, seduces a Fifth Avenue heiress, and pines for his long-lost glass palace before meeting Chava, his unlikely soul mate. Wecker deftly layers their story over those of the people they encounter, including a Jewish baker and his wife, a Maronite coffee shop owner and his wife, a doctor turned ice cream vendor, and an apostate social worker. The ending dips into melodrama, but the human touches more than compensate in Wecker's spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction. Agent: Matt McGowan, Frances Goldin Literary Agency.

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Helene Wecker
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