The Golem and the Jinni is the first novel by author Helene Wecker. It takes place, mostly, among the immigrant population of New York’s Lower East Side at the end of the 19th Century. It begins, however, in the Prussian city of Danzig. Before emigrating to America, a merchant visits a Jewish mystic and pays him to create a golem, who will be his bride. In Jewish mystic tradition, a golem is a creature created from earth who is then bound to a master. Rotfeld wakens his golem on board ship, shortly before perishing from acute appendicitis. This leaves the golem in New York City with no master, and with no understanding of the culture.
Meanwhile, in Little Syria, a woman brings a worn copper flask to a tinsmith. She asks him to repair the dents and restore the polish. The flask had been handed down to Maryam Faddoul from her mother. As Arbeely begins the repair work a naked man, a jinni, pops out of the flask. The jinni has been imprisoned in the flask for over 1000 years, and he has no recollection of how he got there. Arbeely takes the jinni in and teaches him the tinsmithing trade.
The golem, meanwhile, falls under the protection of an elderly Rabbi, who realizes what type of creature she is.
Eventually, these two otherworldly creatures meet. They begin roaming the city together at night, as neither of them has the need for sleep. Their involvement with humans leads to trouble. When the golem’s creator comes to New York to look for her, things get really difficult.
Although this book is about two mythical, mystical creatures, it has a ring of reality. The Lower East Side at the turn of the century is crowded with immigrants. Most of the inhabitants are poor, and many speak no English. The clash of cultures, the teeming tenements, the often deplorable working conditions; all are depicted realistically here.
This is a very well-written engaging story. It was a fun, quick read. I recommend this highly!
Published in hardcover-Harper-2013
Softcover edition-harper Perennial-2013