The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel

Category: Book
By (author): Wecker, Helene
Series: Harper Perennial Olive Editions
Subject:  FICTION / General
  FICTION / Historical
  FICTION / Jewish
  FICTION / Literary
Audience: general/trade
Awards: World Fantasy Award Finalist
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: October 2020
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 544
Size: 7.12in x 4.50in x 1.36in

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*

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.

Review Quote*"Original and fresh…A fascinating blend of historical fiction and Jewish and Arab folklore"
Review Quote*"Wecker deftly layers their story over those of the people they encounter...[A] spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction."
Review Quote*"The premise is so fresh...A mystical and highly original stroll through the sidewalks of New York."
Review Quote*"Wecker begins with a juicy premise…and great adventures ensue…She writes skillfully, nicely evoking the layers of alienness that fall upon strangers in a strange land."
Review Quote*"Magical thinking comes alive in an enchanting allegory of the immigrant experience as two mythical beings try to make sense of themselves and the world around them."
Review Quote*"THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI is recommended to adults who enjoy a good story and have a childlike sense of make-believe."
Review Quote*"It sounds like the setup for a really strange joke: "A golem and a jinni walk into a bakery in early 19th-century New York...." But this debut novel-part fantastic tale, part historical fiction-is one of the most highly anticipated fiction releases of the spring."
Review Quote*"…the most exciting fantasy debut since Susanna Clarke's JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORELL. Helene Wecker must be a born writer; there is no other way to account for the quality of her prose, as phenomenal as any of the supernatural wonders she delivers in the glorious THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI…"
Review Quote*"In the best instances, you don't merely read a book-you dive in and happily immerse yourself, forgetting the troubles of daily life for a while. The Golem and the Jinni offers just such an absorbing experience. "