Monday, March 4, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni-Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni

Helene Wecker

Harper, Apr 23 2013, $27.99

ISBN 9780062110831

In Konin near Leipzig Polish Jew Otto Rotfeld was arrogant, feckless and lonely. He destroyed in a short time the thriving family furniture business he inherited; making him even less marketable to women. A desperate Otto visited Yehudah Schaalman, an extremely old man who dabbled in the Kabbalah to ask the dark mage to create for him a golem. In 1899, Rotfeld leaves on the steamship Baltika accompanied by his golem. On the trip over, the Golem’s master dies while the crew assumes she is his widow. In New York City Rabbi Avram Meyer, realizing the supernatural clay essence of Mrs. Rotfeld, internally debates whether to kill her before she brings destruction or help her; he names her Chava and gets her a job in a bakery.

In Manhattan tinsmith Boutros Arbeely frees a jinni from a millennium old copper flask. He names the jinni Ahmad, who becomes a metalworker. Ahmad misses his ancient Syrian Desert fiery birth place especially the palace, which he knows is long gone. When Ahmad and Chava meet, they are attracted to one another though her master is dead while his Ibn Malik lives on.

This is a strong historical fantasy that weaves together the story of two supernatural beings from different mythos. Although the desert coda feels abrupt, the key to this super thriller is the support cast the protagonists encounter as each of these souls’ respective tales brings depth to the storyline.

Harriet Klausner

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