I do not have time to read, but the books just keep getting stuck to my face. UF, HF, YA, fluffy romance, whatever. I love it all.
But I might judge you if you hand out five stars all willy nilly.
In a nutshell: the audio version was beautifully done and I truly enjoyed listening to it, but I doubt I would have made it through if I'd tried to read it myself. I probably would have been bored out of my mind.
So, I've had this book in my to-read pile for a while, probably for the same reasons that many of you do: it has stellar reviews, it's been on the best seller lists, I think I even saw it at Costco. Clearly, this book had to be something special. But the synopsis was sort of weird (a book about a golem and a jinni?) and there wasn't any promise of any kind of romance, so I wasn't sure it was going to be for me. Now that I've finally read listened to it? What did I think?
I have no idea whether I'm recommending it or not. I think it depends on what you are looking for. This is the story of Chava (Hava), a woman made of clay who is built to be the wife of a man who is immigrating to New York City in 1899. When he dies during the voyage, she finds herself newly alive and wholly alone, uncertain of who she is or what she is meant to do. Upon arrival in New York, she is discovered by an old Jewish Rabbi who befriends her and takes her under his wing, teaching her to pass as human and helping her make her way in the world.
Meanwhile, a metal worker across town is repairing a copper flask when suddenly a naked young man appears. He is a fire jinni who has been trapped in the flask for a 1000 years and is still bound to his human form by the sorcerer who put him there. This book is about how Chava the Golem and Ahmad the Jinni make their way in the world, the people they encounter and the relationships that are formed. It is the story of how they chance to meet, what happens after they do, and how the encounter forever alters their respective course.
On the one hand, it was exactly what I expected. Lovely imagery communicated in a flowing style that made me want to keep listening for the entire 18 hours. I never once considered not finishing it. I listened to it relatively quickly and I definitely wanted to know how it would end. It is just the sort of audiobook that I enjoy while folding laundry or taking a walk. It's easy to listen to and interesting enough to keep my mind from wandering, but without any gut-knotting angst. It was easy to shut off when I needed to do other things, but I always had the desire to turn it back on when I got the chance. The narrator was perfect and listening to him read this book felt… calming. Like sitting by the ocean on a warm and breezy day.
On the other hand, while the listening experience was enjoyable and I liked the majority of the story, in the end it left me feeling somewhat empty. There were very few ways for this story to end happily, so overall I would say that I am content with where it went, but there was something lacking for me. Maybe it was that some of the characters got a lot of screen time but were ultimately expendable and didn't change the course of the story all that much. Michael, Sophia, the ice cream man… so much time was spent telling me their backstory and building up their place in the story, but at the end of it all I'm left wondering what the point was. They could have been left out and would I have really noticed? I was happy with how the author resolved everything, but it felt a little anticlimactic… similar to the climax in The Night Circus, for those that have read it. A lot of build up, but instead of an eruption you just get a fizzle.
There wasn't a direct love story, although Ahmad did have a fling and he and Chava did have some sort of chemistry. It was all very PG and any love scenes were of the "fade to black" variety, which makes this book suitable for many different types of readers, but if you're looking for a great romance, this isn't your book. This is more of a peek inside the lives of many different people in 1899, immigrants of all different nationalities and class, as interpreted through the eyes of two characters who are learning what it means to be human.
I found it interesting, especially while folding laundry and washing dishes, but it may not be for everyone. Basically, if I had actually sat down and tried to read this book to myself, I am pretty sure I would have never had the patience for it, but it worked well for me as an audio choice. I had a similar experience with Life of Pi. I wound up truly enjoying that book, it's narrator, and the story, but I most likely would have never actually read it.