The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In traditional lore Jinn or Jinni are spiritual creatures roaming the desert with their bodies consisting of smoke and fire. Golem are being made of virgin clay and are usually mute. Golems were made for the protection of the Jewish people. Jinni are part of Islamic lore and have free will much like men. Jinni can also assume different forms and not all of them are friendly towards man kind.
In the story “The Golem and the Jinni” these two characters meet up in the late 1800’s New York. Perhaps the only place they could meet up as the golem is a European Jewish thing and the Jinni is an Arabian, Middle eatern thing. Chava our female golem was created by a rogue kabbalist named Yehudah Shallman at the express request of Mr. Rotfeld. Mr. Rotfeld wanted her to be endowed with certain characteristics so she could become his ideal wife. Of course Golems cannot have children. Mr. Rotfeld packs her in a box and ships her to America. He is warmed not to wake her up before arriving to America. Of course he does not heed this advice and end up dying on the way over.
Boutros Arbeely lives in “Little Syria” on Washington Street. Coffee shop owner Marian Fadal gives him a bronze vase to fix at his metal smith shop. When he rubs it out pop “Ahmad” the Jinni. Arbeely takes him in and makes him partner as they share the work of metal smithing. No one can really know that Ahmad is a Jinni so they say he is a Bedouin from Syria. Ahmad is prone to take long walks at night and meet up with various kinds of people. The golem is also taken to nighttime strolls.
After Avraham Meyer the Rabbi who takes her in passes away the two mythical people meet up on a weekly basis to take walks in the city and share their various secrets and challenges. The friendship can be rocky at times with many ups and downs. The plot is spiced up with a marriage to Michael ,Avrahams nephew. Ice Cream Saleh a former doctor in Syria is able to see Ahmad for who he truly is.
As the relationship progresses the two find out they have a common foe who they must defeat, the Wizard who imprisoned the Jinn in the first place. Yehuda Shallman comes to America for unsavory purposes regarding the golem and takes up in Michaels Hospice. Things edge towards a final showdown with the evil wizard.
Great piece of work for a new author. The book gives great insight into the lifestyle of new immigrants coming to new York during the 1890’s. Life was not easy and the author gives us a very vivid picture. The book is also about relationship and individuals from different communities learning to get along with common challenges and how communities used certain strategies to both stick together and cope with the challenge of living in a new land.
Yet what makes it amateurish is that from the get go it is not obvious what the story’s objective is .I saw a relationship developing and two very rare individuals learning to adjust but what was the point. It does not become clear until later. Still it was an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the author’s future works.
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