The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker (2013)
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.
This is a long book at 175,000 Words (440 pages) and I was disappointed it ended. The author is talented (it’s her first book) and the writing draws you in to the environment and characters. It’s best described as ‘magical realism’ rather that fantasy as everything takes place in a recognizable New York in the 1990s. Engaging, thoughtful and ultimately an expression of human values, this is one of the best books I have read for a while. The nearest comparison would be Erin Morgenstern’s ‘The Night Circus’.