With all the cold weather in New York City this week, I’ve spent the entire week waiting for work to finish up so that I could get home to my warm apartment and this book. Despite the curiosity that the Golem piques for me, I was a little apprehensive about starting the book, only because I’m not generally a fantasy nut. That’s not to say there aren’t books in the genre that I don’t love (Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, Harry Potter, etc.), they just aren’t generally my top pick. But, given that Wecker’s tale began with the creation of the golem, I was intrigued.
These characters, along with the supporting cast, are very memorable. Despite that the main figures are not human, it is easy to feel their plight - the frustration of hiding who they are and mimicking human behavior. What I really loved about this book though were the historical elements. The Jinni resides in Little Syria, which happens to have been on my street! The Golem, meanwhile, roams the Lower East side, which used to be a Jewish tenement district. The two characters frequently travel uptown to Central Park. As the story unfolded on very familiar geography, I was quickly tethered to it. Wecker, according to the interview with the author that was appended to the novel, spent almost two years researching New York City history.
Nevertheless, the weaving together of these two traditions in this debut novel was wonderful. I loved the story and would still recommend it. I kept wondering how she would manage to conclude a story that felt as if it could continue forever, and Wecker did it beautifully, in a way that was certainly a little contrived, but did not feel overly forced. The book is long, around 500 pages. Though in retrospect there are aspects that the editor could have cut, at no point as I was reading it did that thought cross my mind. I think this novel sits in a nice sweet spot, not as literary as Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay, but not as kitschy as the Hunger Games, which makes it very approachable and perhaps a bit more universally appealing.
I’m moving next to Amanda Lindhout’s A House in the Sky. To everyone stuck in the snow, stay safe and stay warm. And enjoy the long weekend! Happy reading!