I mentioned earlier this week that I was nearing the end of The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I actually finished it that very same day, but it’s taken me until now to figure out what I want to say about it. I haven’t read a book like it in a long time (if ever).
First, the basics. A golem (that’s fable speak for clay man [or in this case, woman]) stranded without a master and a jinni recently released from the flask where he spent the last thousand years meet on the streets of New York one night at the turn of the 18th century. As the golem (Chava) and the jinni (Ahmad) form an unlikely friendship, their respective immigrant communities get caught up in the same story. It’s fable, fantasy, and historical fiction wrapped up in one.
I was surprised how real the whole thing felt, mostly due to the setting. 1899 New York is it’s own character here. In fact, that might be one of the reasons I had a hard time really getting into the novel early on. I’ve never been much of a historical fiction reader, partly because I’m much more interested in the characters and the plot than in the time or place. That said, Wecker did a great job with the setting; I could very clearly picture the streets of New York at night, despite my relative lack of interest.
I thought I would be fascinated by the golem, since it’s not a fantastical character I see often, but it was the jinni who really made the book for me. Chava and Ahmad were fascinating characters, both in their mythical components and their mundane ones. I don’t often wish for film versions of books as I’m reading them, but I think this would make a super compelling movie. So much so that I just looked online to see if there are any movie rumors yet. In the process, I discovered there will be a sequel (!!) released in 2018. The book ended well enough that I never considered a sequel, but you’d better believe I’ll be reading it.
For what it’s worth, I will probably read the next one. I listened to The Golem and the Jinni, but I might actually have enjoyed it more in print.