The Golem and the Jinni is an upcoming debut novel by Helene Wecker. I was very interested because of the critical acclaim that this book has been receiving. Based on what I have read from others points of view, and my experience from reading this book, I can sum it up in one word – disappointing.
In 1899 two supernatural beings arrive in New York City both from very different parts of the globe. One is a Jinni from Arabic Mythology and the other a Golem of Jewish fables. Ahmad is made from a spark of fire and Chava has been molded from clay. Chava is originally brought to life by a man desperate for a wife before he journey’s to America. When her husband dies on the voyage Chava must navigate the unfamiliar territory that is turn of the century New York. Assailed by the secret thoughts and desires of the people Chava can barely adapt. She befriends a Rabbi while Ahmad, in another part of the city, is delivered from a several century long imprisonment in a flask. He is then taken in by the tinsmith who released him as an apprentice. These two will eventually meet on their separate journeys throughout the book.
The writing is good, the pacing delicate and incremental. The character development is rich and purposeful. Wecker is so careful in developing every insignificant detail in these two character’s lives. She doesn’t skimp on detail. However, there is a point in the book that lost me. She deliberately left out a narrative story point that the book needed to continue. It’s jarring and unsettling to the reader considering the pace of the rest of the novel. I wondered for a minute if I had suddenly glossed over 30+ pages, and if so how had I managed to do that? It seemed strange to have things so specifically, deliberately written and then suddenly throw a chasm into the story. It was like vaulting over mountains and I somehow missed my footing.
I couldn’t get back into it after that and I quickly realized that I didn’t really want to. I had made it very far into the book to realize that I had gotten little from this novel. And, as a result, I did not finish the book. And that, as I said earlier, is disappointing. I don’t want to spend that much time on a book to give up on it. I don’t want to spend that much time on a book that does so little for me… and yet I did. And I’m a little angry at the waste of my time. The writing is good, and I liked the characters, surely… but I can’t help but wonder why an editor didn’t, oh, I don’t know… edit. It seems like such a strange juncture to drop the ball on. With all of the space in this book, and the slow pace of it, I cannot understand why the author would choose this spot to fast forward. Or, conversely, why an editor wouldn’t encourage the author to write the missing bit. It was a bad choice, and it didn’t impress me. It just fell flat.
3 out of 5 stars.