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Monday, May 6, 2013

TLC Tour Stop and Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

From the TLC Book Tour page:
Hardcover, 496 pages
Publisher: Harper (April 23, 2013)
Helene Wecker’s dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.
Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.
Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
Three Reasons Review:
1.) Reasons you chose this book 

I chose this book because of the exploration of Jewish and Syrian mythology, inclusion of the immigrant experience, and the ability to learn about many characters in each of the respective immigrant neighborhoods.  Plus the blurb sounded delightful and the cover is gorgeous!
2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book 

There are several reasons for liking this book.  The author melds Jewish and Syrian folklore together into a story about two people that become somewhat unlikely friends, Chava the Jewish golem and Ahmad the Syrian jinni.  However since both have their origins in myth, it’s more likely they would be friends, right?  Anyway, we read the same aspects of both Chava and Ahmad: their beginnings, how to came to be in New York, their wonder at these new discoveries of the world they live in, their limitations, hopes, fears, mistakes, and ultimately what kind of people they really are.  Along the way we also get to explore both the Jewish and Syrian immigrant neighborhoods they live in, each with their own set of characters.  I enjoyed this aspect, because it mirrors my corner of the world. 

Eventually Chava and Ahmad must band together if they are going to survive.  They share a common enemy who is treacherous and despicable.  I can’t say that I was surprised at who it turned out to be, but the tale between the enemy and Ahmad is heartbreaking.  The enemy deserves everything he gets.  The way in which that thread of the story concludes was a great payoff.

The world in which all of this takes place was expertly described by Wecker.  I smelled the coffee in Maryam’s shop, felt the closeness of the immigrant sheltering house, and smelled the flour and baked goods in the bakery.  I felt like I was in 1899’s New York City. 

All of this being said, there were two aspects of The Golem and the Jinni that I did dislike.  First, the length of the story.  I felt like this story took forever to unfold.  The story switches back and forth between Chava and Ahmad, but I felt like breadcrumbs were being handed to me at a snail’s pace.  So much so that I almost gave up on the story.  It took too long to get to payoff, and I felt it concluded quickly after that. 

I also never became attached to Chava and Ahmad.  Yes, I empathized with them, but again due to the length of the story, I started to not care what happened to them.  For all of the wonderful beginnings I experienced with both of them, I felt like the middle of the story plodded along, and again only little snippets of meaning were given to me.  But these snippets were not exciting enough for me to want to continue to read.   As much as I liked the whole idea of this story, the setting and where the author was going with it, if it wasn't for a book tour I would have given up.  There are chunksters out there that don’t feel like chunksters, and this book is not one of those in my opinion.

3.) Reasons for recommending

So would I recommend this one?  Hmmm...honestly, I would say still give this a try because the idea for the story is original to me.  When was the last time anyone blended Jewish and Syrian folklore?  There are kernels of fantastical storytelling here, but for me the story went awry half way through due to it's length.  That made me fall out of love with it.  If the story was speeded up a bit then I would have styed in love. You may have a different opinion.

I would also urge you to check out one of the bloggers below and see what they thought. 

For  more information about Helene Wecker please visit her website or her Facebook page.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for my review copy.

Helene’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 23rd: Let Them Read Books
Thursday, April 25th: Drey’s Library
Monday, April 29th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, April 30th: Books By Their Cover
Wednesday, May 1st: Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, May 6th: Jenny Loves to Read
Tuesday, May 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, May 8th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, May 9th: Oh! Paper Pages
Monday, May 13th: Bibliophilia, Please!
Tuesday, May 14th: Man of La Book
Wednesday, May 15th: I Read a Book Once
Thursday, May 16th: Speaking of Books
Monday, May 20th: Twisting the Lens
Tuesday, May 21st: A Bookworm’s World
Wednesday, May 22nd: Geek Banter
Thursday, May 23rd: Hooked on Books
Monday, May 27th: Fyrefly’s Book Blog
Tuesday, May 28th: Just a World Away

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