if you were not human but were forced to spend your life in one
of the biggest cities of the world pretending to be a man or a woman,
hiding your secret at all costs? This was how it was for the golem
Chava and the jinni Ahmad, neither of whom chose to be in New York City
The Golem's life began in the hold of a steamship. The year was 1899; the ship was the Baltika, crossing from Danzig to New York. The Golem's master, a man named Otto Rotfeld, had smuggled her aboard in a crate and hidden her among the luggage.—The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Weckler (HarperCollins / Harper, 2013, p. 1)
- Setting: 1899, New York City (Little Syria and the Lower East Side), the Syrian dessert, Prussia; centuries earlier in the Mideast
- Circumstances: a newborn golem (a woman made of clay) without a master and an ageless jinni freed from centuries of imprisonment couldn't be more different, yet they are bound together in complex ways
- Characters: Chava and Ahmad; their human friends and enemies
- Genre: historical fiction with elements of Jewish mysticism and Arabian tales
- Themes: friendship; the meaning of bondage or being beholden; personal sacrifice; desire & longing; compassion; power; death; free will; freedom
- Thoughts on the book: Fascinating and moving; you can't help but empathize with the two creatures who struggle to find their place in the strange human world they've been forced to inhabit. A novel that can be read on many levels: great story, allegory, commentary on religious beliefs or humanity or the craving for independence. Begs to be discussed, thought about, and re-read. One of my top reads of the year.
- Thoughts on the audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition (Harper Audio, 19 hr, 43 min) was read by George Guidall, who was absolutely fabulous. He handled the multiple accents with ease, brought out the personalities of the characters without being dramatic, and augmented the emotional impact of Weckler's story. Guidall's performance is spectacular, making this an unforgettable audiobook experience.
- Extras: For more on 1899 New York City, an author video, and an interesting and informative Q&A, visit the author's website; for book club discussion questions, visit Reading Group Guides; the novel was an Indie Next pick for May 2013 and a Bloggers Recommend pick; the audiobook won an earphones award from AudioFile magazine
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