The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker is set in NYC in the late nineteenth century. As this book starts we are introduced to our main characters the Golem, a woman crafted from clay and infused with the traits of obedience, curiosity, intelligence, virtuous and modest behavior. The Golem is crafted to be the wife of a Prussian Jew, who also happens to die on their voyage to America. What we have left is a woman with the ability to hear everyone's wants and needs, since she is now without her master.
Enter the Jinni, a tall and attractive "Genie in a bottle" who is released accidentally by a tinsmith. The Jinni is a creature of fire. Wild and selfish, the Jinni yearns to return to his natural form, but since he is conflicted with a bit of memory loss, he can't remember who bound him in his human form.
Eventually the Golem and the Jinni's paths cross and an unlikely friendship is born as they both explore humans and their own humanity. The story line delves into the Jewish and Syrian cultures, and their respective religions.
The prose is thoughtful, never hurried, and the intertwining of history and fairy tale prove charming.
The negative, or maybe not so negative...
When we strip the story down to its bare bones, we have the trifecta of success. There is a handsome, selfish and artistically skilled man who is old as shit + a plain, bookish woman desiring to be bound to a master + angst as both of these characters seek comfort from others. The author describes the characters as soul mates, but at times it's hard to see. Both characters are immature in their actions and give off a young-adult air to them, but we can allow them to be this way, since they aren't really human at all. The tie-in at the end seems to drag a bit, but the author pulls each character together and explains their meaning to the story.
It hurts my soul a little bit to say these few negative points because I really, really liked this book, but they were screaming at me the entire time I was reading.
Overall a satisfying read 4/5 stars