The basics: I Am Forbidden, the English language debut of Anouk Markovits, is the story of four generations of a Hasidic Jewish family. Their story begins in Transylvania before World War II, but then spreads to Paris and contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
My thoughts: While I didn't know quite what to expect from this novel when I sat down, I did not expect to finish the novel before getting up. I did not expect to postpone dinner three hours so I could keep reading, and I certainly did not expect to be enchanted by Hasidic Jewish tradition. I would stop short of calling I Am Forbidden a thriller, but it was certainly a thrilling read.
What I found most remarkable in this novel was how well Markovits explained the religious traditions and customs in a way that made them understandable despite their rigidity. The characters, particularly Atara and her adopted sister Mila, shaped my thoughts on opinions on this religion as they grew up and found the words for understanding their own faith. Markovits made me care about these people and understand their beliefs.
The verdict: While the epicenter of this novel is the Hasidic Jewish community, it is also a stunning, moving tale of family, love, honor and secrecy. Markovits skillfully uses pace, character development and intrigue to make this novel absolutely riveting. Highly recommended to just about everyone.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 302 pages
Publication date: May 8, 2012
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours
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