Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker

The Golem and The Jinni is Helen Wecker's debut novel.....and oh boy, what a debut!

We're quite used to books about 'supernatural' beings - vampires, werewolves, witches and more. But Wecker's two protagonists aren't as 'famous'.

Otto Rotfield wants a wife to take with him when he emigrates to America. But, he wants her to fit the mold he has imagined. To that end, he approaches a man steeped in mystery and asks him to create a Golem - a creature made entirely of clay and destined to serve its master's every command. She is a masterpiece. When Otto falls ill on the boat journey, he manages to  animate the Golem before he dies. And so this creature lands in New York City in 1899, uninformed as to the ways of the world, how to behave, what to expect and how she will hide among the humans. It is her good luck that an old rabbi recognizes her for what she is - and takes her in.

Not far away in Little Syria (Lower Manhattan) a local woman brings a battered copper flask to the neighbourhood metalworker for repair. When he erases one of the intricate designs that encircle the flask......you guessed it - a Jinni is released. The Jinni faces the same challenges as that of the Golem - he has been trapped in the flask for thousands of years.

And chance being what it is, these two beings - one of earth and one of fire - meet, and each  recognizes that the other is not of this world.  Their lives are entwined in ways they could not imagine....and someone else is watching them...

Oh, where to start! The setting is beautifully brought to life by Wecker. The lives of immigrants, the wealthy, the tenements, daily life, night life, attractions such as Central Park and more provide a rich and detailed background for Wecker's novel.

The Golem and the Jinni are both mythical creatures, but Wecker's writing made them very real and 'human'. I found myself so caught up in their story, rooting for them and hoping they would find happiness. The supporting cast of characters is just as well drawn and equally compelling.

This was such a unique and different idea for a novel.  Middle Eastern mysticism mixed with Jewish folklore and dipped into New York City's rich history. And under Wecker's skillful pen, it really works.

But such is the stuff of magical stories -  dastardly villains, good vs. evil, sacrifice, love won and lost, fast friendships and more. And this is the feeling that Helene Wecker's novel gave me - that I was sitting in a beautiful silk tent somewhere in the desert, reclining on pillows and listening to Scheherazade spin one of her 1001 tales. I was enthralled from first page to last. Read an excerpt of The Golem and The Jinni. Wecker has truly woven a magical debut. Highly recommended.

"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 to return to her first love, fiction writing. Accordingly, she moved to New York to pursue a Master’s in fiction at Columbia University. She now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter." You can find Helene Wecker on Facebook.

See what others on the TLC  book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.


bermudaonion said...

I wondered if this book would be too magical for me. Your review makes me think I should give it a try.

Heather said...

this is the first review I have read about this book even though I have seen the cover numerous places. Am adding to my reading list. Thanks

Luanne said...

Kathy: It was just as much about the relationships as the magic.

Heather; I thought it was great!

trish said...

I'm listening to the book on audio right now, and I agree that the supporting characters are just as well drawn as the main characters.

I'm so glad you loved it! Thanks for being on the tour!

Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

I am so excited for this book. It sounds awesome and so different from what is out there. The cover is gorgeous and draws me in, I hope I can pick this one up soon!!

Christa @ More Than Just Magic said...

100% agree with everything you said here. I just finished this book earlier this week and loved how magical the writing was. I truly felt like I was being swept away to a different time.

Luanne said...

Andrea and Christa - it was a 'different' read for me ( not mystery!) but I really enjoyed it.

Julie said...

I'm glad to hear you liked it! I've been thinking of giving this one a chance for a while now.