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The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel Hardcover – April 23, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: Imaginative and meticulously researched, this enchanting debut novel from Helene Wecker is, in reality, an historical fiction. Set primarily in turn-of-the-century Manhattan, it deliberately details the immigrant experience--the wonders and hardships of being in a new country and the discoveries, triumphs, and failures that follow--while bringing the city itself to life with such passion that New York of yore seems like a magical land. Beyond reality, however, The Golem and the Jinni, as the title implies, is also a fantastic work of fantasy. The Golem is an insatiably curious clay "woman" that was created to seem human while serving only her husband; the Jinni is a magical "man" whose fascination with mortals has left him nearly stripped of his own nature and forced to live as one. These mythical characters from otherwise clashing cultures not only coexist, but come to rely upon one another in order to exist at all. In turn, their story finds us not only rooting for them to find peace and happiness, but gaining a better understanding of our own human nature in the process. --Robin A. Rothman

From Booklist

First novelist Wecker has blended not only genres but also elements of Jewish and Arab folklore and mythology in this intriguing historical fantasy. What happens when a golem, a Polish woman made of clay, recently marooned in late-nineteenth-century New York, joins forces with jinni, a creature made of fire, accidently released by a Syrian tinsmith in lower Manhattan? The premise is so fresh that it is anyone’s guess, and Wecker does not disappoint as she keeps the surprises coming in this unusual story of the intersection of two magical beings and their joint impact on their parochial immigrant communities. While stolid Chava and fiery Ahmed struggle to cope with their individual challenges and desires, they must together overcome philosophical, spiritual, and physical hurdles to ward off an insidious demonic threat. A mystical and highly original stroll through the sidewalks of New York. --Margaret Flanagan

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1St Edition edition (April 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062110837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062110831
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Helene Wecker grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago, and received her Bachelor's in English from Carleton College in Minnesota. After graduating, she worked a number of marketing and communications jobs in Minneapolis and Seattle before deciding she wanted to write something longer than a press release. Accordingly, she moved to New York to pursue a Master's in fiction writing at Columbia University. She now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Her first novel, THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI, will be published in April 2013 by HarperCollins.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

452 of 474 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There is a certain satisfaction in coming to the end of a long novel, but as the pages dwindled on Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni, all I felt was grief that this magical story had to end. After 500 pages, I wanted it to go on and on. And if you stop reading this review right now, that's all you really need to know.

You will be shocked to hear that the novel is, in fact, about a golem and a jinni. For those who are unaware, a golem is a figure of Jewish myth, an automaton made of earth or clay, brought to life to do the bidding of another. A jinni (or genie) is a figure of Arab myth, a magical creature of fire. So, before we even get into plot details, look at that fascinating set-up! Jewish/Arab. Earth/fire. Just hearing the premise, I anticipated some sort of culture clash to be central to the tale. And while the story does primarily unfold amongst the Jewish and Syrian immigrant populations of late 19th century New York, it is not a parable of Mid-East conflict. This was merely the first of many instances when Ms. Wecker defied expectations and convention, keeping me guessing in what direction her tale would evolve again and again.

Talk about defying convention--the titular golem is a woman, and self-aware. She was originally created (with a laundry list of attributes that included intelligence, curiosity, and propriety) to be a rich merchant's wife. He, alas, died en route to America, shortly after bringing her to life. She arrived at Ellis Island without a master or a plan. The jinni, on the other hand, WAS freed from ia thousand-year mprisonment in a flask--but don't expect him to start granting wishes any time soon.

This is the story of two creatures in turn of the century New York who are both Old Worldly and otherworldly.
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79 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Julia Walter VINE VOICE on April 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
4/1/13 I don't usually comment on a book while I'm reading it. Often, I read them so quickly, there's no time or inclination. Sometimes, some books have lousy endings and that completely colors my rating of the book (Feed, I'm looking at you.) So far I've read just less than a fifth of the book. I love this book. I love the picture of the Lower East Side and Little Syria in 1899. I know from golems, but Chava is unique. I know jinni, djinni and ifrit, but not as well and nothing like Ahmad.

4/3/13 The ending of the book is completely satisfying, just like the rest of the book. Wecker left the door ajar that there could be a follow-up with these characters if the book is as wildly successful as I hope and believe the book could/ will be.

I enjoyed all the time that it took for the characters to meet, because it let me spend more time with the characters getting to know them as individuals. Chava is convinced she is a monster. I disagree; she is a good woman. Ahmad looks human, but he doesn't think that way, nor does he make the effort that Chava does to blend in.

It made me happy to spend so much time on the Lower East Side and Little Syria. The first place I thought I knew from fiction and movies, but I didn't know about the dancing palaces there. Little Syria is an insular place. I liked how the center of it seemed to be Maryam's café. I wonder if there is something magical about Maryam's ability to calm and soothe the patrons of her café? Ahmad works as a tinsmith and makes a spectacular topical map of Syria in the lobby of an apartment house. I would dearly love to see this, because the way Wecker described it sounds like it must be real.

I consider myself very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have read such a magical book.
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94 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Jason Golomb VINE VOICE on March 14, 2013
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I find it hard to categorize this wonderful first novel by Helene Wecker. It's part fantasy and part historical fiction, but at the same time it has a fairy tale-like quality about it. It's a story of two fish out of water, two mythical beings, drawn into real life turn-of-the-century New York city. One is the earthen-made Golem, from Jewish lore; the other a Jinni, born in the deepest deserts of Northern Africa.

Wecker exposes each story in parallel, bouncing back and forth between their respective histories and present; exploring their childlike naivete as they're exposed to more and more of modern life in a massive city.

Each has their own 'sponsor', the Golem is discovered by an aging retired rabbi, the Jinni by an introverted metalworker. Wecker does a terrific job teasing out each personality while revealing the cultural center that resides at each of their existences.

Wecker's narrative is very adult, but often reads like a childhood fable in structure. This book should appeal to any fan of literate historical fiction, but doesn't mind a bit of the fantastical. There are no medieval dragons and wizards, but more of a delightful bit of cultural magic.
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88 of 100 people found the following review helpful By L.W. Samuelson VINE VOICE on March 28, 2013
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The Golem and the Jinni is one of those books that leaves an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach when you turn the last page because you've left the fantastical world that Wecker created and you will never be able to revisit it in quite the same way. You'll say to yourself, "I wish I could write something like that."
Wecker's novel combines the magical realm in which golems and jinnis exist with the turn of the century world of New York City with its enclaves of tenements and immigrants. The Jinni, a magical being of fire, finds Chava, a Jewish creature made of mud, and the adventure begins. Wecker explores what it is to be human through describing the interactions of these mythical creatures with New York citizens. After both the Jinni and the golem have been plunged into a strange new world, they attempt to find a purpose and the resultant happiness. The jinni becomes a tinsmith and the golem bakes bread and both create mayhem as they explore the world around them. Wecker throws a villain into the mix, one who is determined to control and use the creatures for his own purposes and now we have the makings of a great, creative story.
Wecker's prose flows expertly and transports the reader into another realm of existence. The story is believable despite the book's fantastical elements. It is filled with well developed characters who bring the story to life and momentarily take us away from our mundane existence. Take respite from the world you know and read The Golem and the Jinni.
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