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The Golem and the Jinni
Cover of The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni
A Novel
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In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

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About the Author-
  • Helene Wecker received a BA from Carleton College in Minnesota and an MFA from Columbia University in New York. A Chicago-area native who has made her home in Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York, she now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter. The Golem and the Jinni is her first novel.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 11, 2013
    Wecker's first novel is a magical tale of two mythical creatures—a golem from a Polish shtetl and a jinni from the Syrian Desert—struggling to fit in among New York's turn-of-the-19th-century immigrants. The golem is brought to America by poor furniture maker Otto Rotfeld, who had her built from clay to be his wife, but he dies en route. Elderly Rabbi Avram Meyer, recognizing the tall and hardworking young woman's supernatural character, gives her a name—Chava—and a job in a bakery, but ponders whether to destroy her or let her fulfill a destiny that legend dictates includes mayhem and destruction. Meanwhile, a tinsmith, Boutros Arbeely, releases the jinni from a thousand-year-old flask and names him Ahmad. Proud, handsome Ahmad proves a gifted metalworker, seduces a Fifth Avenue heiress, and pines for his long-lost glass palace before meeting Chava, his unlikely soul mate. Wecker deftly layers their story over those of the people they encounter, including a Jewish baker and his wife, a Maronite coffee shop owner and his wife, a doctor turned ice cream vendor, and an apostate social worker. The ending dips into melodrama, but the human touches more than compensate in Wecker's spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction. Agent: Matt McGowan, Frances Goldin Literary Agency.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2012

    After a fierce auction, lots of in-house enthusiasm for this debut novel, which blends Jewish and Arab mythologies to create a magical novel set in 1899 New York. A golem named Chava, brought to life by a renegade rabbi, loses the husband who had commissioned her on the voyage from Poland, while the jinni Ahmad is released by a tinsmith from captivity in a copper flask (where he'd been put centuries before by a Bedouin wizard). As Chava and Ahmad unite against a terrible threat, denizens of their lower Manhattan neighborhood swirl about them intriguingly. With a reading group guide and a 75,000-copy first printing; I'm betting on this one.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal "A dazzling debut...You'll be hooked by the vivid interplay of historical fiction, magical fable, and philosophical musing and the colorful supporting cast...Read it in one long, guilt-free gulp (it's serious literature!)."
  • Publishers Weekly "From its eerie opening pages to its shattering conclusion, The Golem and the Jinni is an astonishing debut novel that sweeps us into a gaslit alternate reality rich enough to get lost in."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Original and fresh...A fascinating blend of historical fiction and Jewish and Arab folklore"
  • Family Circle Magazine "One of the joys of the novel is in watching two strangers develop a relationship that, while it's rooted in their shared magical natures, echoes the way ordinary humans can form bonds starting with a random encounter on a busy street."
  • New York Journal of Books "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."
  • Christian Science Monitor "The premise is so fresh...A mystical and highly original stroll through the sidewalks of New York."
  • Dallas Morning News "A beautifully written historical novel with the added spice of the supernatural to make it unputdownable...The novel comes alive with its vivid portrayal of the humor, warmth, and struggle of life in the everyday Lower East Side. The book's reality is just as captivating as its fantasy."
  • Entertainment Weekly "The author makes you care enough about the humanity of these magical spirits to not only see them through to the end but also to regret that you've reached the last page."
  • New York Daily News "Her story is so inventive, so elegantly written, so well-constructed, it is hard to believe that it is her first novel...The books is so good that I wonder if there was some other-worldly power involved in its creation."
  • Patricia Cohen, New York Times "THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI is recommended to adults who enjoy a good story and have a childlike sense of make-believe."
  • Tom Reiss, author of THE ORIENTALIST and THE BLACK COUNT "An inventive and utterly lovely story...The golem and the jinni...are among my favorite fictional people I spent time with this spring...Wecker is a gifted new voice...I'm glad that her talents have been set free in this novel."
  • Deborah Harkness, author of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES "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."
  • San Francisco magazine "...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..."
  • Jane Ciabattari, Boston Globe "History, magic and religion braid together in old New York's tenements...The interplay of loyalties and the struggle to assert reason over emotion keep the pages flipping."
  • New York Times Book Review "An intoxicating fusion of fantasy and historical fiction...Wecker's storytelling skills dazzle...The book's magic, filtered through the old-time hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side, lingers long after the final page." EW Grade: A
  • Chris Bohjalian, Washington Post "Masterful...utterly unique and enchanting...Very few debut novels exhibit the charm, assurance, emotional depth and bravura fabulation which the lucky reader will discover in The Golem and the Jinni."
  • Paul Di Filippo, barnesandnoble.com "With a delightful blend of the prosaic and the fanciful, The Golem and the Jinni explores what it means to be human as Chava...
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The Golem and the Jinni
A Novel
Helene Wecker
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