I pose this question to you, dear reader: Have you ever read a book that had a good idea, an interesting story, and had everything going for it… But you just can’t get in to it despite all that? You know in your heart of hearts this story is good, but you just can’t get anything out of it? This is basically my relationship with The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.
The plot is pretty straight forward. Some guy in… I guess it’d technically be Palastine at the time the story takes place? Either way, he makes a golem: a construct of clay and other assorted materials that is brought to life for the single purpose of serving its master. Unfortunately, this golem’s master suffers a heart attack on his way to America, and now the golem is forced to wander around 1910s New York wondering what it ought to do with all this confounded freedom.
Elsewhere, a jinni from the Syrian desert is released from his prison, and finds himself just as puzzled about what to do with his newfound freedom.
Eventually, the two meet… And that’s about as far in to the story as I got. I don’t know why, but despite this interesting premise, I just couldn’t get in to this story. I ended up setting the book down around chapter fourteen, and I haven’t picked it up since.
This isn’t really a review, so much as it is me wondering out loud if I’m weird. I’m sure everybody’s encountered this at least once with a book, or a movie, or a TV show, or literally any other form of entertainment. This happened to be mine.
Furthermore, I’m apparently the weirdo because literally everybody else I’ve talked to loves this book. Even if they didn’t finish it at the time I spoke to them, they just adore everything about this story. And the strange thing is that I agree with them on just about every point.
The only real negative I can think of is that the story has a hard time staying on topic. Yeah, ME, the guy who prides himself on his barely coherent stream of consciousness both in his blogging and his podcast, is criticizing someone for drifting off topic. But I stay pretty coherent in my story telling, at least.
This book will focus on the golem, or the jinni, as it should. It’ll also focus on the golem’s maker, and the man the jinni is working for in exchange for room and bord, which is understandable. I’m going to guess people like the Syrian doctor turned ice cream maker has something to do with the plot, because diversions like his seem flat out unnecessary. The author explains his story from his days as a doctor all the way to how he came to live in New York making ice cream, and all I can think is “Um, weren’t we talking about a fucking golem and/or a jinni three pages ago?”.
I am on record saying nonsequential story telling is a bit of a pet pieve of mine. Flashbacks are fine (lord knows I’ve used flashbacks in my writing before), but for fuck sakes, tell the story in order! You’re not deep, you’re not smart, you’re a pretentious douchebag!
Other than this major nitpick, though, this is a story I know I should like… And yet, I don’t.
The audiobook is narrated by George Guidal. I think he’s narrated a couple other books I’ve reviewed here, and liked, which is equally puzzling.
This might be one of those moments where I suggest just picking it up for yourself. Clearly, I’m no help.