The Golem and the Jinni is Helene Wecker’s debut novel that has created quite a buzz. It had a ton of media hype and has been on my radar since before its release. So when it popped up as a $1.99 Kindle Daily Deal, I had to snag it. It did not stay idle on my e-reader for long.
This book is the tale of Chava and Ahmad, the golem and the jinni respectively. They are two creatures, one of earth and one of fire, from two different cultures and two different parts of the world. They are both whisked away to turn-of-the-century New York, where they must learn to navigate this new world and pass as human. Though very different, they find partnership and understanding in each other.
Wecker should be commended for her unique blending of the Arab and Jewish cultures. The ideas, information, and mythology are all presented in a way that flows with the story and doesn’t feel like a history lesson. There’s a lot about cross-cultural relationships that could be studied by using Chava and Ahmad as a model.
They could also serve as a fascinating look at traditional gender roles and norms. Chava is a strong (physically) female character—which can be interpreted in many ways—who must hide this quality so that she isn’t deemed a threat. Ahmad is flippant with his relationships and displays an annoying amount of pride and stubbornness. That’s just a taste of the gendered complexity of these two characters.
The Golem and the Jinni can be a bit slow at times, and won’t be to everyone’s taste. What could be beautiful to some readers may be seen as tedious by others. The action and adventure is of the subtle variety. If you’re just looking for a simple, cut and dried story, you may want to look elsewhere. The joy of this book comes from the thought-provoking characters and culture.