Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni

the Golem and the Jinni  by Helene Wecker

This is a very different kind of a book. It's an immigrant story like you've never read before and it is the story of two people who are so removed from the general populace that it is no surprise that they become each other's closest friend.  I have no idea how to adequately describe this book and story.  Please forgive any misspelled names, since I listened to the audiobook, so I never saw any of them written.

A Polish man who is bound for America decides that it is time to take a wife.  Since he has never been able to find a girl who he could love, he had one made.  He went to a rabbi gone bad, a man who delved into the dark arts and requested a golem to be his wife.  When the deed was done he packed up for his journey to America. The plan was to not activate the golem until he reached The States.  Instead, he got curious and opened her box in the ship's hold and said the incantation that brought her to life.  Then, he promptly died, leaving her with no identity, a newborn, to fend for herself.  

Once she makes her way to land and begins to wander the streets of New York, she is spotted by a very very good rabbi, who immediately recognizes her for what she is and takes her in to protect her and figure out how to handle the situation.  He gives her a name, Chava and a place to live and helps her to learn about the world.  When he thinks she is prepared, he helps her to set up a life for herself.  

In the Syrian quarter, a metalsmith begins work on an oil jar that was a family heirloom for the local restaurateur, but has seen better days.  Little did any of them know, but the jar contained a jinni who had been imprisoned for some time. Ahmad, the name given him at his release, had no idea how long he'd been trapped, or even what he had been forced to do by the man who trapped him. Now, he is in New York, completely unaware of modern life or customs and has to learn to fit in.

When Ahmad and Chava meet, they know they are unlike any of the other beings around them and they form a bond.  Although, they are very different, their otherness brings them together.  What follows is the ebb and flow of their relationship as they drift in and out of each other's lives. 

This is a very imaginative tale, filled with love and heartache and loss and drama all in the microcosm of the world that is New York City.  I don't know how to begin to let you know about the devious characters and their machinations, or the kind people who need the love or care of Chava and/or Ahmad to take back their lives. I enjoyed every moment of this amazing story.

Oh, and there was a bonus.  When I first discovered audiobooks (my mom turned me on to them), the first series that I was listening to were the Lillian Jackson Braun books.  The man who read the stories, who I to this day think of as Quill (the main character in the books), George Guidall was the voice of Recorded Books (tm, I guess).  When I heard his voice begin telling me the story of Chava and Ahmad, it just seemed so right!  


Judy Krueger said...

I have had this book forever and keep meaning to read it. I loved your synopsis of the story and how it made you feel. I will read it soon!

The Reading Frenzy said...

Wow, love the premise

Chuck Baudelaire said...

I've been wanting to read this! Thanks for the synopsis!