REVIEW: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

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. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; 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 threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

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Audiobook Info
Narrated By George Guidall
Length: 19 hrs and 43 mins

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Let me introduce you to my new favorite book. It’s called The Golem and the Jinni. It’s a debut novel that has won many awards (Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (2014), James Tiptree Jr. Award Nominee (2013), Goodreads Choice Nominee for Debut Author, Best Fantasy (2013)). I usually don’t notice that kind of stuff but once I finished it I stopped my iphone (I was listening to it) and thought, “tell me this epic piece of work has won something for this quality of work.” No lie.

There are two main characters Ahmad and Chava. Let’s talk about Chava: She is the voice of reason in our story. She keeps Ahmad centered when he longs to be free of his shackles and responsibilities. At times she’s Debbie Downer but you never fault her for it. She’s a golem. She was created to be the way she is.

Ahmad on the other hand is our jinni of this tale. He’s made of fire and his personality is just as fiery. He’s quick to anger and storm out. But just like Chava, we don’t fault him for it because that’s just always what he’s been. Part of what he is was taken away from him so it’s only natural that he fight tooth and nails to get it back.

The supporting characters like Rabbi Avram Meyer, (the Rabbi that helps Chava when she gets to New York), Boutros Arbeely (the tinsmith that employees Ahmad), Maryam Faddoul (the coffee shop owner that cares about everyone), Mahmoud Saleh (the doctor come ice-cream vendor) all lend to this rich tale. I read critically, even though I don’t always mention it here, and when I’m reading a giant tale I catch myself wondering if characters are truly important to the story or are they just there for padding. (Blame The Count of Monte Cristo) I can’t think of one character in this novel that is just padding. All characters have some weight in the story and each one makes the story that much more rich.

The bad guys are sinister but don’t actually seem like they are an evil apart from all other evils. Helene Wrecker even made them human in a way most people wouldn’t.

Let’s talk about the audiobook now: George Guidall is now my new favorite narrator. I will see him out when I buy new audiobooks. I think I might have enjoyed the book more with his narration then I would have just reading it alone. The only reason for that is because of his rich accented English when he pronounces the different characters names. I would never figure out how to say Yehudah Schaalman on my own…

Final rating is definitely a 5/5. Why wouldn’t it be? The narration from the audiobook also gets a 5/5. It’s also getting fit into my favorite contemporary book.

Read this or listen to this. It’s necessary.