In this twist on the “new baby in the house” story, Won Ton the black cat is introduced to a golden puppy that does not belong in his house. The author’s note at the beginning of the book informs the reader that the story is told using senryu, which is a form of Japanese poetry similar to haiku. Both senryu and haiku have three lines which contain a total of seventeen syllables. They capture a snapshot in time. Haiku focuses on nature, and senryu focuses on human nature—in this book the nature of Won Ton and Chopstick.
It’s no surprise that Helene Wecker’s first novel, The Golem and the Jinni, won the 2014 Harold U. Ribalow prize. This adult fairy tale reminds the reader of the works of Kafka or Isaac Bashevis Singer. At turns it is funny but it can be dark. The Golem (Chava) is a creature made out of clay and the Jinni (Ahmad), born of fire, has been trapped inside a copper flask for many generations. It’s 1899 in New York City with a focus on the streets and rooftops of Manhattan. Immigrants abound.