Every culture has its superstitions and its supermen: the German imp, the South African giant Abiyoyo, the golem of Jewish lore, and the jinni of Arabic mythology. What if, during one of America’s great waves of immigration, 2 of these mythic creatures collided?
That’s what happens in The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker‘s compulsively readable debut novel. At the junction of 19th-century NYC’s Little Syria and the Jewish Lower East Side, Chava, a female golem, meets Ahmad, a once-powerful jinni. Chava, who was created by a slightly sinister, failed rabbi to wed a man who died en route to America, now serves no master—not technically, anyway. But poor Chava feels compelled to help everyone whose fears or desires she senses: an impulse that can be a pleasure or a liability. And Ahmad has been trapped inside a metal vessel for centuries, imprisoned after a battle he doesn’t remember.
As Chava’s jealous creator and Ahmad’s captor catch up with them, Wecker’s writing jumps between magic realism andfantasy, existential exploration and adventure.
It’s not quite your grandmother’s immigration story. Or is it?
June 4, 2013