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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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In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and 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.

In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and 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.

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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.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2013

    In 1899 two very different creatures find themselves in New York City. Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay and brought to life by a Polish magician to be the perfect wife. Ahmed is a jinni, a being made of fire, who has been released from a flask he's been bound in for centuries. Forming an unexpected friendship, Chava and Ahmed must learn how to survive undetected while preparing to battle a dangerous adversary. First-time novelist Wecker introduces readers to an immigrant community of kindly rabbis, skillful tinsmiths, and possessed ice cream venders that serves as an excellent backdrop for the debates between Chava and Ahmed about the use of power and the meaning of freedom. VERDICT Full of quirky characters and philosophical and religious musings, this fascinating blend of historical fiction and Jewish and Arab folklore excels when it comes to its gorgeous descriptions and the intriguing flashbacks to the jinni's earlier life, but it lacks some relationship development to ground Chava and Ahmed's romance. Overall this original and fresh story will attract fans of historical fantasy or folktales. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/12.]--Katie Lawrence, Chicago

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2012

    After a fierce auction, lots of in-house enthusiasm for this debut novel, which blends Jewish and Arab mythologies to create a magical novel set in 1899 New York. A golem named Chava, brought to life by a renegade rabbi, loses the husband who had commissioned her on the voyage from Poland, while the jinni Ahmad is released by a tinsmith from captivity in a copper flask (where he'd been put centuries before by a Bedouin wizard). As Chava and Ahmad unite against a terrible threat, denizens of their lower Manhattan neighborhood swirl about them intriguingly. With a reading group guide and a 75,000-copy first printing; I'm betting on this one.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    April 15, 2013
    Can't we all just get along? Perhaps yes, if we're supernatural beings from one side or another of the Jewish-Arab divide. In her debut novel, Wecker begins with a juicy premise: At the dawn of the 20th century, the shtetls of Europe and half of "Greater Syria" are emptying out, their residents bound for New York or Chicago or Detroit. One aspirant, "a Prussian Jew from Konin, a bustling town to the south of Danzig," is an unpleasant sort, a bit of a bully, arrogant, unattractive, but with enough loose gelt in his pocket to commission a rabbi-without-a-portfolio to build him an idol with feet of clay--and everything else of clay, too. The rabbi, Shaalman, warns that the ensuing golem--in Wecker's tale, The Golem--is meant to be a slave and "not for the pleasures of a bed," but he creates her anyway. She lands in Manhattan with less destructive force than Godzilla hit Tokyo, but even so, she cuts a strange figure. So does Ahmad, another slave bottled up--literally--and shipped across the water to a New York slum called Little Syria, where a lucky Lebanese tinsmith named Boutros Arbeely rubs a magic flask in just the right way and--shazam!--the jinni (genie) appears. Ahmad is generally ticked off by events, while The Golem is burdened with the "instinct to be of use." Naturally, their paths cross, the most unnatural of the unnaturalized citizens of Lower Manhattan--and great adventures ensue, for Shaalman is in the wings, as is a shadowy character who means no good when he catches wind of the supernatural powers to be harnessed. Wecker takes the premise and runs with it, and though her story runs on too long for what is in essence a fairy tale, she writes skillfully, nicely evoking the layers of alienness that fall upon strangers in a strange land. Two lessons: Don't discount a woman just because she's made of clay, and consider your wishes carefully should you find that magic lamp.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Helene Wecker
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