Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
The Golem and the Jinni takes the reader on a ride from pre-WWI Poland,Germany and New York to pre-10th Century Syria among the Bedouin. This is an ambitious undertaking but I did not notice any inconsistencies! Wecker included details about Bedouin, like the fact that even into the late 1940s some were still cauterising skin to make a person recover from an illness, that I wouldn’t have known that except that I read it in Thesiger’s Arabian Sands.
Wecker created believable characters with weaknesses and unlikable characteristics, to make them seen just like us! That’s good writing, especially considering that the two central characters are a golem (a creature, created by a person, from clay that must obey a master) and a djinni (a creature made of flame that lives for hundreds of years, can enter into humans and does not have a moral code). Wecker uses these two mythical beings to muse on the nature of humanity, desire, conscience and free will.
The majority of the novel is set in New York City in 1899. It is interesting to read about the different migrant groups and how the people, even from the same region, of the many different sects of Christianity interacted with each other and the Muslims and Jews.
I enjoyed reading the novel and I wanted to continue reading past my bedtime. I have thought about it a little bit since completing the book, however it doesn’t keep me awake at night trying to tease the complexities apart. Wecker is a gifted writer and I admired the many threads that she wove and that it is historically accurate. Her research was worthwhile! The NY Times has a very good review of the book here. And this article in the NY Times explains that Wecker had a Jewish upbringing and that her husband is Arab-American, which explains how she had such insights into both cultural groups. I also enjoyed reading this review.