Title: The Golem and the Jinni [Audiobook] [Hardcover]
Author: Helene Wecker
Narrator: George Guidall
Genre: Fantasy, Literary Fiction
Running Time: 19 hours and 43 minutes
Date Published: April 23, 2013
Disclosures: I worked on the blog tour for The Golem and the Jinni’s hardcover release. However, I purchased the audio book myself as the author was coming to my area and I wanted to see her and I hoped to have at least started the book by the time I went to her event. Also, Audible.com asked me to share my experience using their website. I agreed to do this because I’m already using their services and am happy so far. I did receive two credits towards audio books for doing this (though I didn’t know I would receive those when I agreed to write about them), as well as a link to a free trial for my readers.
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.
Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
Let me start off by saying that I loved loved loved this book! It has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf (yes, I bought the hardcover (I needed something for the author to sign!)), and I’m recommending it to everyone I know. I think it’s one of those books that’s universally appealing. You don’t have to be a fantasy buff to enjoy this book. The fantasy in this book is pretty light, with most of the story really being centered in our world.
I started this audio book because Helene Wecker was coming to my local independent bookstore, and I was already intrigued by her book and didn’t want to miss seeing her. I was pleased to see that George Guidall was the narrator for this book. The first time I listened to a book performed by George Guidall, I was completely distracted by his cadence. He has an odd way of breaking up sentences that took my attention away from the story the first time I listened to him. However, by the second book I didn’t even notice it, and he’s quickly become someone that I’m seeking out in audio books. I think most people won’t even notice his cadance; I just tend to be hyper aware of some things, and cadence is one of them.
I don’t normally have any questions for authors when I see them in person, especially if I’ve only just started the book. But I wasn’t even 30 pages into the book when I noticed a definite parallel with Frankenstein, and a similar commentary about the responsibility a creator has to their creation, and the importance of not being cavalier with our creations. Wecker admitted that the story of Frankenstein was in the back of her mind as she wrote about the Golem, and discussed creators and creations and how that fits in with society today.
The story isn’t particularly fast moving, but it still goes along at a nice clip. I noticed early on the side stories that Wecker included, many of which could be fleshed out to be short stories on their own. None of the stories distract, though, and while the information given in those stories seems superfluous at the time (though still really enjoyable), it all comes together and you realize how important each detail is to the character development and progression of the overall story.
One of my pet peeves as a reader is when an author beats me over the head with their message and themes and beliefs. My favorite books are those that, if you aren’t paying really close attention, you would miss the message because the story is really that good. Sometimes I don’t want to be thinking about themes and messages and lessons in books, I just want to enjoy a good story. Other times I’m hungry to make the parallels with my own life, but I want that to be my choice, not something an author forces on me. Wecker does a magnificent job of this. The themes in the book are handled with a fine touch. Sometimes I lost myself in the story, and other times I would look for the lessons to be learned through the Golem and the Jinni’s journey and how that relates to myself and the world in general.
Wecker does a great job with the characters — the Golem and the Jinni are complete opposites, though more complimentary than at odds with each other. They balance each other out in a way that makes you root for them to find the peace and contentment all of us search for. They’re never so extreme that they don’t seem human. They’re always struggling with their nature, which is something all of us do. We’re all struggling against something, whatever that is.
I loved every minute of this story and look forward to following Wecker’s career as an author.
Thoughts on Audible.com:
I’d been using Audible.com for 3-4 months when I downloaded The Golem and the Jinni. Initially signing up at Audible.com was easy and straightforward. I seem to go through an audio book a month, maybe slightly more than that, so the most basic membership was what I chose. I’m hyper aware of having memberships that automatically renew, but so far I’ve used every credit I’ve received and have even purchased an audio book or two because I didn’t have a credit available.
What I love the most is how fast I can download an audio book. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not the best at planning ahead. About an hour before I leave for a trip, I decide I need to load up my iPod and I don’t have time to either go to the bookstore to pick out an audio book or wait for hours and hours for an audio book to download. Audible.com breaks long audio books up into 5 or 6 hour segments for faster downloading. This has been a lifesaver as I hurriedly add a book to my iPod before I go somewhere!
The website is easy to navigate and not cluttered up, which is something I wish more companies would get on board with. I particularly like the wishlist feature — I realize that’s not that impressive of a feature, but I really do love it and am looking forward to working my way through my wishlist.
At this point in time, I’m really enjoying audio books and Audible.com in particular. I’ve made no secret that I really hate Amazon and when I was looking for where I was going to start purchasing audio books, I couldn’t find a better website than Audible. I make a point of purchasing most or all of my books at my local independent bookstore, so I guess that’s how I assuage my guilt. Without Audible, though, audio books would be out of my price range because they’re just so dang expensive. With the pricing plan that Audible has, I’m able to get my audio book fix and still support my local bookstores.
Here’s a free trial from Audible if you’d like to try it out!