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  • The Golem and the Jinni

  • A Novel
  • Written by: Helene Wecker
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 19 hrs and 42 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (196 ratings)

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The Golem and the Jinni

Written by: Helene Wecker
Narrated by: George Guidall
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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, 2014

Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively listenable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

©2013 Helene Wecker (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Golem and the Jinni

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Fantastic - Amazing - Wonderful

To date, I have purchased 40 titles on Audible. Up until today, my favourite novel was "Lincoln in the Bardo" with "Born to Run" a close second - that was until "The Golem and the Jinni". Where do I begin? The content? The narration? It was the best novel I have listened to since becoming a member.
I am definitely going to use my next credit on a George Guidall narration. What a rich, varied voice - it fits so well with the story. 19 hours is a looooong book, but each time I got into my car I could not wait to revisit New York thanks to the narrator. And the story - absolutely wonderful job Helene Wecker. I will also look for more of your work on Audible as well.
Do yourself a favour - buy this book!

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Pretty Good

I really enjoyed hearing and learning about these legends of two very different cultures from that of my own. A nice look into the immigrant experience with just the right amount of magic and folk lore. At times maybe a little slow going for me, but thats a very minor critique. Overall it was interesting, performed well, and tied up nicely by the end.

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  • JOE
  • 2023-06-15

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I resisted reading this for a long time, because I was worried that it would be a sad appropriation of the myths and lore of other cultures, but I was completely one over. And as a sidenote, the magic apposite exist in this book, is a minor element, and does not drive the plot, or save it, But provides background for the creatures. This is a must read of contemporary fiction.

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A lovely, decadent tale

Very few authors are capable of the kind of magical realism that Helene Wecker masterfully creates is this beautifully imagined story. The narrator seemed to convey a sort of aged, wise empathy in his approach to the characters that added to the old world and fairytale-like setting. Wonderful! #Audible1

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Sweet story of becoming oneself

I liked the characters but the plot is predictable. I would consider this a good, easy leisure read.

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  • Jax
  • 2023-06-11

A New Favourite

I loved this tale and the narrator was perfect. Every character was fully fleshed out and its artful telling will stay with you like a fairy tale of old. I’m glad to have finally gotten around to reading it in time to read the sequel.

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I enjoyed it more than I expected

I had already seen this title recommended automatically but honestly I wanted to avoid yet another story located in New York. I’m tired of stories that happen in the United States! I gave this one a chance though, and found, like others who have commented, that I just couldn’t stop listening! The perfect recipe of magic, moral philosophy, varied and interesting characters, suspense, culture, and history. The pace was quick and exciting but somehow there was room for musings about different aspects of human nature, discussion about free will, religion, cultural traditions, and relationships! Finally, the reader did a magnificent job with his accents, tone, dramatic pauses and practiced storytelling abilities. He was a treat to listen to, and sometimes re-listen, just for his technical skill. I’m glad I gave this book a chance, and recommend it highly.

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Really good!

Great narration! And lovely story that went by quickly considering it’s one of the longer ones I have listened to

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Riveting and brilliant

This is a fantastic tale of drama, action, romance, villains, everything beautiful that is all wrapped up into a magical world of reading.

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Unique & Engaging

It’s always a delight to encounter a tale that feels suspenseful and unexpected. I felt deeply connected to the multi-faceted characters, and the performer was perfection - so many dimensions in his voice.

Even my 9 year old daughter caught me listening and became hooked herself!

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  • Tango
  • 2013-04-26

Enchanting Debut Novel - Delicious!

I love fantasy and have been waiting with great anticipation for The Golem and the Jinni. I was not disappointed by this enchanting debut novel by Helen Wecker, but it was not what I expected either. This story is much more an allegory blended with historical fiction than it is a classic fantasy with a magical system driving the plot. It is a difficult story to describe in a meaningful way because the novel has many layers. On the surface it can simply be read as an interesting tale about magical creatures, evil wizards, spells, and the pursuit of immortality. (Aside to parents - this is definitely NOT a children's story.) But, woven throughout the novel are several much deeper themes to ponder long after you finish the book. On one level, this is truly an immigrant story - people throughout time moving to new places out of wanderlust, to escape a threat, or in pursuit of a better life and the challenges of creating community, maintaining cultural identity, and overcoming language barriers and prejudice that come with that. Ultimately, both the Golem and the Jinni end up as accidental immigrants to the wonderful/frightening place that was New York City of 1899 and their adventures as strangers in a strange land provide a fascinating allegory for all immigrants. On another level, The Golem and the Jinni is a study of human nature - the moral and ethical dilemmas, romantic and platonic love, faith, altruism, free will and enslavement, and the meaning of life and death. Wecker's mythical creatures are forced to tackle these big questions of humanity without the benefit of parents, religious training, or schooling that give most of us some foundation and watching them wrestle with those issues is surprisingly entertaining and thought-provoking. I suspect this is a book that could give you a new perspective each time you read it.

Initially, I was so anxious to understand what the big conflict would be (anticipating some type of magical culture clash or something), I almost missed the beautiful view along the way. I started the book over when I finally realized that Wecker is laying down a very intricate pattern that you have to appreciate from start to finish - this is not a book you'd play on double speed or you would miss much of the nuance, some of the deeper questions, and some very nice prose. Wecker takes disparate stories, multiple characters, several historical time periods and weaves them together to create a rather mesmerizing flying carpet of a tale that is part fable, part romance, and part historical fiction. And, when you get right down to what every reader hopes for, The Golem and the Jinni delivers - it has a terrific ending! Helene Wecker is really talented and for a debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni is quite well written - characters are nicely fleshed out, settings are vivid, and there is a nice fluidity moving between settings and different periods of time. In addition, the audio version benefits from the narration of the always fine, George Guidall - his seasoned voice is a great fit for this story.

I have no hesitation in recommending the book. This isn't your average fantasy fare, but most fantasy readers will find a lot to love. In addition, because of the bigger themes, the amazing characters, and the vibrant historical setting most people who enjoy an entertaining and meaningful story independent of genre will like The Golem and the Jinni. I am really looking forward to more from Helene Wecker!

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  • Janice
  • 2013-08-05

What does it mean to be human?

This was a wonderfully creative interweaving of mythology, fantasy, immigrant history, and cultural understanding with some danger and romance thrown in. The relationship between Jinni and Golem is complex because they are so different in their natures (hot and cold, impulsive and reserved, selfish and serving) and yet also alike in their bafflement of the human race and the stress of needing to suppress their true natures. Their divergent viewpoints lead to very insightful debates on matters of ethics, morals, religion and free will, challenging each other’s actions and motivations. They embodied both the best and the worst of the humans they were trying to figure out and this adds depth to what is essentially a stranger-in-a-strange-land tale. As is true with the best of mythology or folk tales, there is a lot to be learned by humans from the dilemmas threatening the Jinni and the Golem. Their struggles make you think about just what does it mean to be human.

While the tone is often dark and dangerous, there is also plenty of humor found in the recognition of small moments of everyday living, lending the supernatural a reassuringly grounded feeling. The supporting characters, good, bad or in between, are all wonderfully written. There wasn't one I felt was a misstep. Helene Wecker’s writing is straightforward and assured, George Guidall’s reading is perfection. I loved every minute of this book.

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  • Jefferson
  • 2013-07-23

Fine Romantic Urban Historical Immigrant Fantasy

Helene Wecker's fine first novel The Golem and the Jinni (2013) opens with the separate unintentional immigrations to NYC in 1899 of a masterless female golem from Poland and a bound male jinni from the Syrian desert. Wecker recounts with fascinating detail the attempts of the two supernatural beings to pass as human in their new Jewish (golem) and Syrian (jinni) Manhattan immigrant communities. The golem has awakened to life on the ship over to America, so she is only a few days old, but the jinni has been imprisoned in a flask for a thousand years, and in addition to the 1899 plot strand, Wecker reveals little by little the jinni's past and how he came to be bound in human form and by whom. While sharing some traits (superhuman strength and agility, fluency in any human language, and the inability to sleep or digest food), the golem and the jinni also have different abilities and personalities. Because the golem's master dies en route to NYC, her innate need to satisfy a master renders her ultra-sensitive to the desires and fears of every person in her proximity. The jinni, essentially a creature of air and fire, chafes at being trapped in human form but excels at doing metal work and lighting cigarettes with his bare hands. The golem is more cautious, prudish, conservative, and empathetic, the jinii more irresponsible, liberated, creative, and selfish. One of the pleasures of the novel is watching the personalities of the two protagonists develop as their plot strands weave ever closer together.

I enjoyed the fresh perspectives of the jinni and the golem about such things as the puzzling human belief in irrational religions and inconvenient social codes, the mystifying construction of large decorative marble arches that lead to or from nowhere, the magical transformations into bread and cake of dough when baked, the dark fascination of aquariums, the claustrophobic nature of commuter trains, the perfection of chicken eggs, and so on.

I cared for the characters, from the two protagonists (so human despite their supernatural differences and belief in their own inhumanity) down to the supporting players like the kind and moral Rabbi Meyer and his honest and naïve nephew Michael Levy, the circumspect tinsmith Boutros Arbeely, the quiet boy Matthew, the tragic ice cream vendor Saleh, the bored and daydreamy heiress Sophia Winston, the heart-of-her-community coffeehouse mistress Maryam Faddoul, the bickering bakery owning Radzins, and even, at times, oddly enough, the abhorrent wizard villain. I enjoyed spending time with them.

I was also impressed by Wecker's evocation of sublime, filthy, and vigorous 1899 NYC, its different districts devoted to the detached wealthy, the squalid poor, and various immigrant groups; it's expansive parks and noisy elevated trains and sordid rooftop demimonde.

The novel also has plenty of good writing, many funny, moving, suspenseful, ironic, or beautiful passages. As when the jinni "comfort[s] himself with the thought that although he might be forced to live like a human, he'd never truly be one," speculates that "perhaps this God of the humans is just a jinni like myself, stuck in the heavens, forced to grant wishes," and rides the Elevated train between two cars: "The noise was deafening, a rattle and screech that penetrated his entire body. Sparks from the track leapt past, blown by a violent wind. Lamp-lit windows flashed by in bright, elongated squares. At Fifty-ninth street he jumped out from between the cars, still shaking."

Other choice passages are the detailed description of the jinni's mesmerizing tin ceiling map-picture of his home desert, down to "a miniscule boar, stout and barrel-chested, the last of the sun glinting off tin-plated tusks," and the moment when the golem sees the jinni for the first time: "His face--and his hands as well, she saw now--shone with that warm light, like a lamp shaded with gauze. She watched him come nearer, unable to take her eyes away."

And the novel is often very funny, as when Radzin and his wife talk about a boy who compulsively counted everything until he died young:

"But he died, the year before we left. A mule kicked him in the head. " She paused, and then said, "I always wondered if he provoked it deliberately."
Radzin snorted. "Suicide by mule."

"Everyone knew that animal had a temper."

Upon reflection, I suppose that the climax of the novel, though suspenseful and satisfying, is a little too iffy and cinematic, but the book pulses with human life, wisdom, stories, and interesting themes, like the balance between autonomy and servitude in our souls and lives, the nature of love, the quality of community, and the vigorous attraction of the modern city.

This is the first book that I have heard Robert Guidall read, and I quickly became enamored of his savory and compassionate voice. In fact, I suspect that his intelligent, restrained, and sensitive reading of the novel (from his quiet golem to his flighty jinni) increased or enhanced my appreciation of it. I will listen to more books read by him.

Fans of romantic historical urban fantasy (if it is a genre) would probably enjoy this book.

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  • Robert
  • 2014-08-09

I loved the story, the writing and the narration.

This is probably the most enjoyable book I have read/listened to all year and the year is 2/3 complete. For those among us who gravitate to fantasy, this is certainly that. For those looking for something quite unique this is that also. For those among the hopeless romantics, you have come home. I loved everything about this book: the story, its depth and its ending. And narrated by George Guidall; what more could one ask for?

The nature of my world these days has caused me to cut back on the number of reviews that I am able to write. But I just have to share what I find to be the truly wonderful books I come across and this is one of them.

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  • Dawn
  • 2014-04-13

Different and interesting but not exciting

I was very excited to read this book based on the number of high reviews. It is not the genre of book that I didn't care for but rather the style of the writing. The mystical and historical parts of the story were fascinating. However, the flow of the story made it a painful read. I mostly listen while commuting. The story didn't seem to come together until the middle of the book. The beginning was rather dull and several times while listening I needed to switch to music just to stay awake. By the middle of the book the characters became more interesting and listening became more enjoyable. Overall, a different book and somewhat interesting but definitely not a riveting tale.

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  • anne
  • 2013-05-22

Not My Usual Genre--So Happy A Friend Recommended!

I have a friend that reads Sci-fi, I read hoaky romance stories and British mysteries. Why she recommended this book to me I will never know, I'm just glad she did. I found myself "sneaking" to listen at work! I knew nothing about Golems or Jinnis before this book. This book is set in 1927 New York. In addition to the fascinating lifes of the Golem and the Jinni, it provides a very interesting peep into what life was like for Jewish, Syrian, etc. immigrants. There is magic, a little romance, religious angst, culture, class differences, 1927 morality, and even the hunt for immortality! I can't wait to hear more from SW. To top it off, one of my all time favorite narrators, George Guidall. I can't say enough about this book. I wouldn't tell Audible this, but this one is worth 2 credits!

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  • David
  • 2015-02-12

Outstanding...Innovative...Delightful

I have pretty high standards for audio books. I want great narration...lively and interesting characters and a plot that moves along at a solid pace.

You get all of that and much more in this outstanding story.

19 plus hours and I wasn't bored once.

This one is a keeper.

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  • Dana
  • 2013-05-08

Loved everything about this!

I guess this qualifies as historical fiction, since it's set in turn of the century NYC or fantasy, since it has supernatural qualities in it, but I don't think it needs a set category -- it's just a really good story.

George Guidall is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators and he does an amazing job on this story as well.

This book did the two best things for me: Made me feel like I was there while I was reading it, and made me sad to reach the end.

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  • Jim "The Impatient"
  • 2015-06-29

YOU CAN'T HAVE ART WITHOUT ARTISTS

I had to get this because of all the great reviews. Once again I did not dig deep enough. Through the first half this was an excellent story with an excellent narrator. The story had a fairy, fantastical feel with a historical aspect to it. The development of the Golem and her reaction to the world were wonderful. At first the Jinni was a separate story, with an Aladdin type of feel. Both characters were opposites in nature. There were some jerky transitions in times and places, but not bad enough to ruin the story.

Tess
Some interesting things happen when they get to New York City. In New York we meet some nice American characters. We also get a feel for the horrifying way in which immigrants had to enter through Ellis Island and how strange the New World would have felt for them. We also see how hard it was for new people and not everyone was so inviting. Then in the middle of the book one of the sub characters die and the mood of the book changed. The Jinni and the Golem meet and they start taking long walks together. My wife saw the movie Tess, I did not, but she said it was boring and all they did was take long walks and talk, talk ,talk. This turns into that. There was the beginning of the development of a bad guy and I thought that would be interesting, but it took forever. This novel was in strong need of an editor. I am not sure the editor read the manuscript all the way through. The book turns into a soap opera and the magical feel it had earlier goes out the window. With four hours and forty minutes left, I gave up. I had suffered through several hours of dialogue and soap operaness and lost patience.

George Guidall adds class to everything he narrates, for a debut novel to score one of the best was very lucky for Wecker.

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  • K. Masheter Deal
  • 2013-05-07

Read this Book - It is a Wonder!

Any additional comments?

I can't hardly believe this is a first book ... this author made magic on the page come to life ... what a wonderfully imaginative and fresh way to spin a tale about mythical characters that make you think your hearing about them for the very first time ... the historical time frame was woven in the story perfectly ... I can't say enough how much I enjoyed this book ... fresh, imaginative, creative - adjectives just escape me ... George Guidall did a masterful reading of this title ... forget what ever else you have a your wish list move this title to the top of your list & listen to this book - you won't regret it.

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