Monday, December 16, 2013
Title: The Golem and the Jinni: a novel
By: Helene Wecker
Bored with vampires and werewolves? Dive into this entertaining book about two mythical creatures who may never have been paired in a work of fiction before. A golem created in Poland and a jinni from Syria intersect in New York City (where else). The golem, whose master died on the sea voyage, seeks a new purpose in life in the Jewish neighborhood of Lower East Side Manhattan. The jinni, released from a copper flask, finds himself forced to pass as a human and make a living on the outskirts of the Syrian community in New York.
Attempting to avoid discovery as non-humans, Chava and Ahmad each become entangled in the immigrant communities where they live and work. It’s the richness of the historical setting interacting with the characters’ idiosyncrasies that makes this book so compelling: the jinni smoking cigarettes but never having matches because his body is made out of condensed fire, or the golem making deliberate mistakes at her bakery day job so that her co-workers won't resent her inhuman efficiency...and then spending all night working as a seamstress for the men in her boarding house because she doesn't need to sleep.
Shaped by their very different inherent natures, each must struggle for self-determination. The jinni's nature is to seek freedom and independence, but he is bound by his nature as much as the overly empathetic golem. Both are forced to cope with the destructive and self-destructive impulses within themselves, and both struggle with the challenge of living as immigrants in a new and strange world. And ultimately, both find that the other can serve as a mirror for their own self, just as we can find ourselves reflected in them.
NB: This book was reviewed independently by 2 staff members who agreed to have their work combined here. Their individual reviews appear under the bylines April (here in bold type) and Xenon.
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