Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni (4.5)

I started listening to this way way back in October, and it was the perfect after-rehearsal book to listen to. I'd been working hard for hours, now it was time for someone to entertain me! I had a whole system, I would listen to the news in the morning on my way to work, I would sing in the afternoon on my way to rehearsal, and then I would listen to a story at night on my way home.

This worked for the first third of the audiobook. It started slow, because it's long and there's a lot to cover. Halfway through part two my show ended so I had one less commute to listen to things. Which meant I stopped doing my wonderfully productive and necessary singing and instead listened to this story. By Part Three, the only thing I listened to in the car was this book. I wanted to fall asleep listening to it but I was loathe to miss anything. I listened to it at the gym or on runs, I listened to it while cleaning, anything where I was alone. It still took me what felt like forever to finish because it was so long, but I loved it.

New York City
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker, moves between a few different narrators far flung through the world, and sometimes through time, and during the course of the story these strands are knit together into a seamless story. We start with The Golem, a being made of clay with the strength of a dozen men, usually meant to protect its master above all else. This golem, however, was built to be the wife of a lonely, wealthy man moving to America. He wakes her during the journey, then dies and she is left alone, masterless, purposeless and completely brand new set adrift in a world she doesn’t understand. In America, she is taken in by Rabbi Avram Meyer, who names her Chava, and knows what she is, and teaches her how to become part of the world.

Then there is the Jinni, a powerful creature made of fire who comes out of a flask that a tinsmith was trying to fix. We see his story in the present as well as the distant past, before he was put in the flask he has been trapped in for hundreds of years. Now he is trapped in human form with an iron band about his wrist. Boutros Arbeely, the tinsmith, takes him in as an apprentice, but the jinni, who Arbeely names Ahmad, doesn’t need as much help as the Golem, and runs about New York creating mischief as he always has.
kinda like this guy...
Until one day, the golem and the jinni meet. Their unlikely friendship, the woman made of earth created to be obedient and the man made of fire who could fly about the world in an instant and enter the dreams of men and toy with them, is necessary for both as they are each the only creature of their kind, who never need to eat or sleep as humans do, but are forced to live among them and hide their true natures.

And one day, Yehudah Schaalman, the golem’s creator, decides that he is getting too old and must find a way to live forever. He’s known since he was a young man that God was angry with him, and he would find nothing but eternal suffering on the other side of this life, so he needed to find the key to eternal life. He creates a spell which leads him to New York City, the golem, and the jinni.

It is a beautiful story that weaves in themes of god, creators, natures, predestination, and free will. 

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