Reviewed by Ambrea
The Golem and the Jinni weaves together the stories of Chava, a golem, a creature made of clay, and Ahmad, a jinni, a being of fire and wind born in the Syrian Desert. Both make their way to the shores of New York at the turn of the nineteenth century, both struggle to acclimate to a brand new community of immigrants, becoming unlikely friends and allies as they look to overcome the challenges of a modern world.
As I read The Golem and the Jinni, I was entranced by the language and style of Helene Wecker’s novel. It has a storyteller’s tone, words flowing easily, pouring from the pages, and it casts an amazing set of characters with preternatural abilities. Moreover, she weaves together the jinni’s story and the golem’s origin and the present world so skillfully, so completely, her novel becomes a fluid, organic thing with a life of its own. I found it very easy to become engulfed in the intertwining stories of the golem and the jinni.
And I loved Chava and Ahmad. Granted, I adored Avram Meyer, the rabbi who rescues Chava—and there’s something about the villainous Yehudah Schaalman that’s absolutely thrilling—but, as the story progressed, I loved Chava and Ahmad, the dynamic they shared and the characters into which they developed.
I loved that Chava is made of clay, that she can visualize other’s desires and act upon them, that she’s wildly powerful yet incredibly kind. I loved that Ahmad is made of fire and wind, that he can craft beautiful works of art in molten metal, scenes from his beloved Syrian desert, that he is wild and arrogant and struggling with a tangible life he didn’t foresee. They’re such wonderful, full-bodied characters with hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations of their own, and it’s so easy to get sucked into their world.
Honestly, I enjoyed every morsel of The Golem and the Jinni. It was, in fact, “compulsively readable” as the book blurb attests. It had a wonderful pace, an intriguing set of characters, a fantastic blend of history and folklore and myth, and a magnificent story to wrap it all together. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t find it very hard to sink into it a second time.