A marvelous and absorbing debut novel, a combination of vivid historical fiction and magical fable, about two supernatural creatures in turn-of-the-century immigrant New York.
An immigrant tale that combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology, Helene Wecker's sparkling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899.
Chala, is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a conjurer 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 harbor.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born of the ancient deserts of Syria. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free. An iron band around his wrist binds him to the physical world.
Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava fears losing control. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the capricious and carefree Ahmad chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, golem and jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place, masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them.
Surrounding them is a colorful cast of supporting characters: the café owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary Ice Cream Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish immigrants; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the mysterious Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.
When Chala and Ahmad accidentally meet, they form a tenuous bond that challenges their opposing natures--a friendship that is shattered when the golem's violent nature overtakes her. But a powerful threat will emerge to bring Chala and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable in a wondrously inventive tale that is mesmerizing and unforgettable.
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