An immigrant tale that combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology, Helene Wecker’s dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to 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 harbor 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 around his wrist binds him to the physical world.
Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava-imbued with extraordinary physical strength-fears losing control and inflicting harm. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the handsome and capricious Ahmad-an entity of inquisitive intelligence and carefree pleasure-chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them.
Surrounding them is a colorful cast of supporting characters who inhabit the immigrant communities in lower Manhattan at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century: the café owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary Ice Cream 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 immigrants; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the mysterious Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.
Meeting by chance, Chava and Ahmad become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing nature-until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
This is an absolutely wonderful, beautiful book filled with mystery, suspense, drama, a little romance, and a little magic. It’s all brought together to bring to you a magical tale that will stick to your soul the way cake sticks to your thighs. This is definitely a 2013 author debut that you need to read and add to your collection.
Despite Jinni and the Golem as magical creatures, they’re life like and human in both their natures and their emotions. Each one of them go on a soul changing adventure and learn new things about themselves that completely change who they are and how they view the world by the end of the book. This is a story about perseverance, and learning to accept who you are. This is a story about overcoming the hurdles life throws in your way and becoming a better person because of them.
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked up this book, I only know that I was so deeply captivated by the description and enthralled by the beautiful book cover art. Despite the fairy-tale feel this is an amazing work of literature that I believe both men and woman would enjoy.
Don’t be mistaken by this book, the romance is perhaps only ¼ of the actual storyline but even that is beautiful in its simplicity. Everything is complex and beautifully told, this is easily a tale that you will lose yourself in until you flip to the very last page.
Beautiful, magic, perfect: Pick this book up and read it.