Monday, February 23, 2015

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

When this book was added to my book club list, I dreaded reading it.  I just couldn't see how some sort of fantasy about mystical creatures living in New York in 1899 would appeal to me.  And the book did take some time to get going.  But, now I am glad I read it.  It turned out to be more than a fantasy - it was part love story, part mystery.  And the Golem and the Jinni were purposely imbued with human characteristics so for the most part it was easy to forget they were just creatures of human mystical belief.

The Golem is created in Poland to become the wife of a man immigrating to New York.  Against its creator's advice, he awakens her aboard ship before arriving.  Then he dies and she is left to fend for herself on the ship and in New York (after she walks to land on the bottom of the Hudson River).  Early on she is discovered by an old Rabbi who guesses at her secret and guides her in the ways of being human.

The Jinni is enslaved in the body of a human thousands of years earlier and captured in a copper pot which was passed on for generations.  When a New York based Syrian tinsmith is asked to repair the pot he mistakenly releases the Jinni.  Like the Golem's Rabbi, the tinsmith becomes the Jinni's guide to living life as a human in New York.

The remainder of the book deals with the troubles these two creatures have living as humans.  Of course, they eventually meet, immediately recognize the other is not human and face life together.  Though both are trapped as humans, they are created with very different natures which often clash.  Both also leave a great deal of carnage in their wake - some caused directly by them; some by mishaps of others who come in contact with them.

Another part of the book is unravelling the Jinni's past - he does not immediately recall how he was captured and enslaved as a human and that is eventually revealed to him and the reader.  As is the connection between his origins and the Golem's.

By the end I could not put the book down as I was so intrigued by seeing how the different storylines would come together - and they did, in my view in a very believable way.  So, don't hesitate to read this book like I did - it's worth the initial effort and the time commitment as it's not a short book.

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