Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni Book Club and Book Review

A few weeks ago I got to host the most amazing group of girls at Delicious Reads. We read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. This historical fiction/fantasy book sent us back in time to 1899 New York and also across the globe to the Syrian Desert. In honor of the Jinn, from Helene's book, I transformed my house into a "Little Syria". With some beautiful fabric provided by my mom and some props borrowed from Delicious Reads members, my house became an Arabian dream. Syrian food and golem-making made this night worth remembering!

Decor for The Golem and the Jinni Book Club
I transformed my house into "Little Syria" for The Golem and the Jinni Book Club 

Ice Cream Bar in honor of Ice Cream Saleh
I love ice cream and had so much fun creating this ice cream bar in honor of Ice Cream Saleh in the book.

To see more pictures from our amazing book club and get ideas on what activities and recipes I used to recreate your own Arabian Nights Party, check out it out at Delicious Reads (Part I and Part II). And a special thanks to them for spotlighting my upcoming book, Remembrandt, coming in October!


Book Cover of The Golem and the Jinni

Book: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year: 2013
Pages: 496
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Adult, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction

Summary: An immigrant tale that combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology, The Golem and the Jinni tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899. One is a golem, created out of clay to be her master’s wife—but he dies at sea, leaving her disoriented and overwhelmed as their ship arrives in New York Harbor. The other is a jinni, a being of fire, trapped for a thousand years in a copper flask before a tinsmith in Manhattan’s Little Syria releases him.
Each unknown to the other, the Golem and the Jinni explore the strange and altogether human city. Chava, as a kind old rabbi names her, is beset by the desires and wishes of others, which she can feel tugging at her. Ahmad, christened by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, is aggravated by human dullness. Both must work to create places for themselves in this new world, and develop tentative relationships with the people who surround them.
And then, one cold and windy night, their paths happen to meet.
My Opinion: A fantastic look at 1899 New York through the unlikely eyes of a creature made of clay and a genie. 

Four and a quarter out of five stars
4.25 out of 5 Stars
This book was a little bit fantasy, a little bit mythology, a little bit historical and a whole lot of different. Helene's knowledge of New York right before the turn of the century was seriously astounding! I loved the little bits of history that filled the pages while we experienced the story of the Chava and Ahmad.
When I think back on everything I read, I still can't believe all the events that took place. From Chava's creation and trip to America to Ahmad's reawakening and flashbacks to his life in the desert, you never really knew where the story was going to turn next--which would have been annoying if everything wasn't so interesting. It wasn't just the history that grabbed my attention (Why do people of the same heritage gravitate towards one another? How much did language barriers shape our culture over hundreds of years ago?). The mythological elements had me thinking for days (Do Golems have souls? Can the Jinni have kids? Why is Ice Cream Saleh seeing bones where flesh should be? What if evil souls were reincarnated over and over, only to have the same goal/outcome in each life? What would it be like to know everyone's wants?).
(Possible spoilers) I wasn't sure where the story was going when the Golem was first created. I wasn't sure I would come to have a connection with this character who didn't have her own desires and goals. In the end, she ended up being one of my favorite characters because she grew into this woman who had to chose which desires she could fulfill and which ones she didn't need to fill. Though things didn't quite turn out as I would have liked between her and Michael Levvy, I think their relationship kept me on my toes.
The same goes for Ahmad and Sophia. I didn't love how things turned out (Poor Sophia!), but I think that is part of the reason this novel is so different. You have these two magical characters--the Golem and the Jinni--and they have to interact with humans. I like that their relationships twisted and turned in different directions, eventually ending up where they could both help one another.
My only wish, if Ahmad could have granted it, was that I hoped Chava and Ahmad could have found each other sooner. I would have loved to see more of their interactions!
Overall, this was one of those reads that wasn't just for entertainment. I felt culturally enriched. The historical elements interested me and I learned fascinating details about a society that has been forgotten. No matter what walk of life you come from, The Golem and the Jinni is one of those novels worthy of a read.

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