The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker | Book Review

the golem and the jinni

Blurb: 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.

Thoughts: This book is a beautiful blend of historical fiction and folklore/fantasy. Wecker uses powerful messages throughout the book to create unforgettable characters and a stunning story.

Chava and Ahmad are both such complex and interesting characters. Chava is curious about this new world she’s landed in, yet she’s also quite shy. She also tries to see the best in everyone and tries to help them, although helping them sometimes has consequences. Ahmad is very blunt and hot-headed, the complete opposite of Chava. Although, I still really liked Ahmad’s character and I loved reading about his back story.

One of my favorite things Wecker did in her writing is how we really got to know about ALL of her characters, not just our Golem and Jinni. We know about Chava’s old master before he died, the relations that she forms in New York, we know about where she works and her co-workers and how she found where she belongs. Ahmad works in a tinsmith’s shop and we know about his boss and we also know who Ahmad’s love interests are and how their relationship develops. It’s just all so beautiful.

The book can be a bit slow at times, but that’s because it’s not action scene after action scene. Instead, we just get to travel through this historic New York with these two creatures who feel like they don’t belong. I loved seeing Chava and Ahmad go on their weekly walks through the city because we (as readers) start getting attached to the world and see how the different locations can impact two different lives.

I did really love the direction the story went and I think it wrapped up nicely but it was so hard for me to see Chava lose so many people she cared about. I’d like to think Chava had an impact on Ahmad and that he started caring for people more, after seeing what she went through.

I highly recommend this book, but maybe not for younger readers (high school and up) just because it’s more of a finding your own way book. I think it also deals with some more powerful topics that have more of an impact the older you get.


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