On Trial: The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker

Posted August 23, 2014 by Kayla in Reviews / 0 Comments

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The Golem and the Jinni Book Cover The Golem and the Jinni
Helene Wecker
Historical Fiction, Fantasy
HarperCollins Publishers
April 23, 2013

In the late 1800s, Yehudah Schaalman makes a golem for a man name Otto Rotfeld. Rotfeld plans to make the golem his wife when he arrives in New York by ship. Unfortunately Otto dies from a ruptured appendix shortly after he wakes his Golem. She is now without a master and in a world she knows nothing about. She becomes overwhelm with hearing the thoughts and desires of everyone around her. In New York she steals food for a hungry child and this causes a Rabbi to notice her true nature. He takes her in and tries his best to keep her occupied and teach her how to control her desire to fulfill everyone's desires. At first she lives with him in secret at his boarding house but eventually he gets her a job at the bakery and she moves into her own room. He names her Chava and she goes under the story that her husband died on the voyage to America. She becomes very good at the bakery but her nature sometimes shines through. She moves faster than the average human and never makes mistakes on purpose. Over time she learns to make a few mistakes on purpose and slow her speed to avoid drawing attention to herself. She never sleeps and starts taking in sewing to occupy her time at night.

Meanwhile on the other side of town at a metal works shop, Boutros Arbeely receives a copper flask to mend. While doing repairs he releases a Jinni bound inside the flask for so long, not even the Jinni seemed to know how long he'd been trapped. He takes in the Jinni as his apprentice and tries his best to look out for him. No one must find out what he is. The Jinni takes on the name Ahmad. The Jinni, like Chava never sleeps. He starts walking around every night exploring the city, walking on the roof tops of tenement houses. He meets a young heiress, named Sophia, and seduces her. Sophia later finds out that she was pregnant for the Jinni when she falls ill and her doctor does a secret abortion. After that she is never the same; she is left weak and is always cold.

One day the Jinni meets the golem and they both realise that something is different about each other. Golem is more scared and tries to run away. She wondered off too after the death of the Rabbi. Eventually though they become friends and start walking together once a week. One night, Chava goes dancing with a co-worker and some of her friends. She had so much fun that she had forgotten that the Jinni was waiting on her for their weekly walk. She hurries over to where he waits and invites him to the dance. They both have fun dancing but then Chava realises that he co-worker isn't there. She and Ahmad look for her and find her having a fight with her boyfriend who she is pregnant for. The boyfriend hits her and Chava loses her control. She beats him so badly that he is hospitalized. After this the golem makes up her mind that she will end her life, but Ahmad steals a paper with the command to end her life before she can use it. With no other choice, Chava marries the rabbi's nephew, Michael Levy and she tries her best to stay controlled.

Meanwhile, Yehudah Schaalman makes his way over to New York in search of immortality. The dark arts he has practices has always been a way for him to achieve immortality and now, more than ever, he feels that it will be found in New York. He conjures a spell to find the source and for a long time he is unsure of where it is. He is living at a boarding house ran by Michael and uses a new name, Joseph Schall. Eventually he catches on to a trail of Ahmad and goes out to seek him. It is then that the two of them come into contact and the climax of the story begins. Ahmad had entered the dreams of a girl over a thousand years ago, she became ill from possession and her father took her to a witch doctor. As it turns this witch doctor was a past incarnation of Yehudah Schaalman who imprisoned the Jinni. Ahmad is bound to Yehudah for as long as he lives which were the words said to invoke the binding. Ahmad and Chava eventually come under the Yehudah's control but, an unlikely character cured by Yehudah while trying to locate the Jinni, saves them. He says the commands to trap someone in the flask and traps Yehudah himself. Ahmad goes to the Syrian desert to try to break the curse on him, while Chava reminds in New York awaiting news from him.

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

My Impressions:

I thought the book was well written.  It made me feel like I was in New York during that time and I could imagine the details of the world around me. I decided to read this book because it had an interesting plot. Two magically, mythical creatures who will meet for an adventure. However, I was rather bored throughout the first half of the book. I think the author spent to much time boring readers with the details of the daily lives of her characters. For chapters on end nothing interesting happened at all. The Golem and the Jinni didn’t even meet until half way into the story. They were supposed to fall in love (the book is also under the romance category) but there was hardly ever anything that really indicated his. I think if the book was shorter in the beginning, I would have enjoyed it more. However, it was still a good read, and I definitely enjoyed it overall.

About the Author:

Helene Wecker grew up in a small town north of Chicago and now lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter.  She has a bachelor’s in English from Carleton College in Minnesota and a Master’s in Fiction Writing from Columbia University. The Golem and the Jinni is her first novel.

The Verdict:


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