Friday, July 11, 2014

THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI






The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker, HarperCollins, 2013, 484 pp



I have wanted to read this novel since I first learned of it last year. My latest strategy with books I never seem to get to is to convince one of my reading groups to pick it. That is what I did with this one and it was a great read.

I became fascinated by golems when I read Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Now I know more about them than I did before; for instance a golem is a beast of burden completely loyal to its master and would do anything to protect that master. Also, golems are prone to running amok.

While a golem is a Jewish supernatural creature made of mud, a jinni is an Arabian supernatural creature composed of flame capable of both assuming human or animal form and dwelling in inanimate objects such as lamps. Delightful twists in this story include the golem Chava being female and falling in love (as much as a clay woman can) with the jinni Ahmad. The only thing these two have in common are their supernatural status.

The Golem and the Jinni is a love story with a mystery embedded in it. Chava and Ahmad live in  1899 New York City neighborhoods of Jewish and Syrian immigrants. Chava has lost her master and thus is prey to the unspoken needs and desires of all humans while Ahmad has recently been freed from a vessel in which he had been trapped by an evil master centuries ago.
 
It is all wonderfully improbable including Chava and Ahmad themselves. Because the assumption that magic is the main force runs beneath the story, I was comfortable with unlikely occurrences and characters who challenge logic. My only quibble is that the golem and the jinni do not meet until almost halfway through the book and eventually I became impatient.

The end was so unexpected and lovely it mollified me completely. In fact Ms Wecker gave me the key to happy relationships in the next to the last paragraph, making sense of my marriage and most of my friendships.


(The Golem and the Jinni is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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