A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular Hasidic sect, the Satmar.
Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I Am Forbidden brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.
Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.
When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.
A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, I Am Forbidden announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new voice and opens a startling window on a world long closed to most of us, until now.
About Anouk MarkovitsSee more books from this Author
Given the author’s background, you might assume that this is a story about how one of them is wrecked by her choice. But the wonder of this elegant, enthralling novel is the beauty Ms. Markovits unearths in the Hasidic community she takes us into.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden | See more reviews from NY Times
... this ambitious, revelatory novel (which includes a helpful glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms) richly rewards your efforts and heralds a promising new writer.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
The world explored in this novel of a Hasidic family is that of a righteous masochism, a circulatory dread, expressed in luminously beautiful prose.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
...while Markovits offers clear explanations of Orthodox practices, her characters aren’t precisely sympathetic...they are predictable...Markovits, a deft, lyrical writer, is capable of more.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, I Am Forbidden announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new voice and opens a startling window on a world closed to most of us.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
The story is incredibly engrossing and absorbing, and as violent as it is moving.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Her unique story, engaging writing and fascinating subject matter makes this work of literary fiction a compelling read.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
To Markovits's credit, I Am Forbidden does not read like a contemptuous, unidimensional exposé of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life. With poetic grace, she succeeds at depicting the culture from the inside out...Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Overall it is the powerful sense of suppressed longing among her characters that makes the book such an engrossing and affecting read.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Steeped in erudition and seething with emotion and energy, I Am Forbidden is driven by a breathless momentum that makes it hard to put down.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Markovits brings off this balancing act with skill and daring. Everyone is given their due. Instead of disrespect or easy judgment, there is generosity of spirit and delicacy of the pen.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
It is because she portrays her characters – not as straw men or as good guys versus bad guys – as real human beings, caught between two worlds, that I was hooked by this novel from the first page.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
The story is immensely powerful but Markovits’ style requires the reader to fill in the gaps and often draw their own conclusions from what’s given to them on the page.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
This book has moved me like none other and has inspired me to learn more about this culture. Highly, highly recommended.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
In choosing I Am Forbidden as its premier novel, the newly formed imprint Hogarth has set the bar extremely high. I very highly recommend this novel.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Markovits skillfully uses pace, character development and intrigue to make this novel absolutely riveting. Highly recommended to just about everyone.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
There are some parts that the average reader might find harder to get through but the bulk of the novel is mesmerizing.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
...it was so fascinating that I didn’t want to put it down. Markovits enables readers to sympathize with the characters, even when they might not agree with their religious convictions.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Markovits gracefully shows compassion to both of their tales, one sister that remains devout, one that dreams of escape.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
It caused me to think deeply about what it means to be forbidden, and what it means to be forgiven.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
While Markovits rises to that challenge for the most part, when she tries to take Mila out of her life's confines, the novel takes a turn that I thought was unfortunately soap-operatic. ...my appreciation for it diminshed a bit over the last third of the book.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
This was a brilliant and beautiful book that sought to explain a way of life which is unfamiliar to most, populated by vivid characters who were placed under severe duress amidst stolen moments of joy.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Overall, this was an incredibly beautifully written book...she is just that good of an author, one that makes the reader believe that no other world ever existed, except for one she created.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
The story is deeply moving, and I became so attached to the characters that I wasn’t ready to let them go in the end.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Markovits is very good on this lost world, giving us outsiders a glimpse of the ecstasy of worship, the confidence instilled by living in an enclave, the rewards of satisfying family life, and above all the Satmar community’s will to survive.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Her unique view of their world shines through every page as she draws on even the most minute of details from both her childhood and young adulthood growing up within the sect and her thorough research...Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Markovits plays masterfully with the tension between an individual’s impulse for freedom and the cultural demands of obedience. It’s a very moving novel...Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
The writing style is easy to get sucked into and I had a hard time putting it down.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
Even at the end Markovits remains relatively neutral and lets her characters choices speak for themselves – no small feat. I AM FORBIDDEN is a truly wonderful read. I AM FORBIDDEN is a truly wonderful read.Read Full Review of I Am Forbidden
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