The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker
HarperCollins, 2013. 486 pgs. Fantasy
In this remarkably accomplished first volume, Helene Wecker brings to bright life two mythical characters in turn of the century New York. Chava the golem was created as wife to a man emigrating from Poland to the United States, who dies just after he awakens her. She arrives in New York alone and totally lost until a rabbi sees her nature and lets her into his home. Ahmad, the jinni, has been imprisoned in a copper jar and is accidentally released from the bottle but not from his unknown master by a Syrian tinsmith who takes him on as an apprentice. The apprentice soon outstrips the master and the golem works in a bakery where she has to conceal her extraordinary strength and speed. Chava and Ahmad meet. She sees a man with a face of flame, and he sees that she is made of clay. Against all odds they become friends, and wander the streets of New York together during the night when neither has need of sleep. The city reveals itself to them, as do the immigrant populations they move among as carefully as they can. A terrifying menace from the old country threatens them both, as do their own differences and abilities. Not much more can be said without ruining this touching and terrifying story, but trust me that you will fly through the book wishing it would not end while desperately needing to know the ending.