“The Hidden Palace” by Helene Wecker— Chava and Ahmad Return

Wecker, Helene. “The Hidden Palace”, Harper, 2021.

Chava and Ahmad Return

Amos Lassen

Helene Wecker’s new novel, “The Hidden Palace” is the sequel to “The Golem and the Jinni”, the story of theadventures of Chava (the golem) and Ahmad (the jinni), who meet in lower Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century.

Chava is a woman made of clay who can hear the thoughts and longings of the humans around her and she feels compelled to help them. Ahmad is a being made of fire who is perpetually restless and free-spirited. Chava was created as a companion to a man traveling to New York from Eastern Europe, but the man died at sea and she landed alone in New York. She needed to care for herself in the big city. Ahmad escaped an old flask that sat on a shelf in a coffee shop in lower Manhattan’s Little Syria which is now the home of the World Trade Center complex. Once released, he takes the shape of a man with a fiery disposition who uncomfortable in the world of humans. The two meet as unlikely immigrants and they spend their time off walking the streets of New York City and their lives become intertwined. 

Facing the second World War, Chava and Ahmad have to decide how they really feel for each other while in the guise of humans and living in fear of being discovered

who they really are. We follow their lives and  the lives of other characters as they come together  and as they deal withimmigration, assimilation and their own personal struggles between individualism and community. To find their places in the worlds of humans or to be torn apart are what they really have to face.As we did in the first book, we have a world filled with craziness. Through the lives of the golem and the jinni, we learn about how we live and the force of the id, how to rise above it and how to become triumphant over it. Magic religion and history intertwine to show us something about faithfulness and loyalty.

This is a very different kind of book that takes us away from Covid and puts us in a world where daily life is not important. Bringing two supernatural creatures together gives us a story about what we carry from history and how identity is formed.

 

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