I Am Forbidden: Book summary and reviews of I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

I Am Forbidden

A Novel

by Anouk Markovits

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits X
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
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  • Published in USA  May 2012
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Orphaned during the Holocaust, two ultra-orthodox Jews bound by love and faith are driven apart by the same forces in a sensitive consideration of tradition and commitment. [A] sober, finely etched scrutiny of extreme belief set in a female context." - Kirkus Reviews

"Starred Review. Tracing the Stern family from Transylvania to Paris and Brooklyn, [Markovits] focuses on daughter Atara and adopted daughter Mila, closer than close, until Atara wants more than the Satmar world can offer. Markovits plays fair: the believers are not stupid; their harsh world has beauty. We dwellers in the modern world know what 'should' happen, but Markovits shows why, for those in the other world, it's not that simple." - Publishers Weekly

"Markovits immediately draws the reader in to a family saga of faith and longhidden secrets, set among the Hasidic Jews of eastern Europe and spanning four generations. A stunning novel; highly recommended." - Library Journal

"I Am Forbidden moved me deeply. It brings many things wonderfully to life, including parts of history that I thought I knew but I now know better. Above all, it makes vivid the great comfort of strict religion, but also its sometimes painful confinement. I was swept away when I first read it. Now I am enlarged after reading it again." - John Casey, author of National Book Award winner Spartina and Compass Rose
 
"It is the rare novel that manages to be both achingly sympathetic and formidably honest. I Am Forbidden is both of these, and much more. Anouk Markovits's exploration of the obligations of faith - and the equally pressing obligations of the loving heart and inquisitive mind- is riveting." - Tova Mirvis, author of The Ladies Auxiliary and The Outside World
 
"In this gem of a book Anouk Markovits takes a reader to an exotic world, portrayed with such warmth and precision that the journey feels perfectly real and the characters become your intimate friends." - Lara Vapnyar, author of There Are Jews in My House

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Reader Reviews

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Beckyh

I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits
Three children who survive the destruction of their orthodox Jewish communities during WWII are followed throughout their lives. One survives because his Catholic nanny hides him as her son until he is “restored” to Judaism after the war. One survives because that same boy prevents her from following her mother and father to certain death. The third survives because her family is fortunate enough to escape to neutral land and then Paris after the war.
The aftermath of the war influences all the decisions, secrets and separations that follow them all their lives. The Ultra orthodox community is sympathetically rendered as is the decision of one of the three to leave that insular and confining faith.
The characters and faith are presented with clarity. Book groups will discover the lifestyle of the orthodox and its ramifications. A discussion of the decisions of the three characters and the decision of a granddaughter should lead to a lively conversation.
4 of 5 stars

Carole

Interesting Insight
I Am Forbidden provided a most interesting insight into Hasidic Judaism and in particular into the Satmar which is the most insulated Hasidic sect. While the story initiates in World War II it neither details nor dwells there - but rather what came after for some survivors. It tells of two girls within the same environment who take different paths until life brings them back together showing the thread of love unbroken. The story gives some insight into how conflicts that arise in our world today for and with those choosing this insulated life thru religion.
The book was a read accomplished in two sittings and flowed well. Markovits is an author with a story to tell and the skills to tell it. Hopefully she will share more of her talents in the future.

Eleroos

Disappointing
Anticipation not matched by reality, insightful of culture but disappointing.

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Author Information

Anouk Markovits

Anouk Markovits was raised in France in a Satmar home, breaking from the fold when she was nineteen to avoid an arranged marriage. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science from Columbia University, a Master of Architecture from Harvard, and a PhD in Romance Studies from Cornell. Her first novel, Pur Coton, written in French, was published by Gallimard. I Am Forbidden is her English-language debut. She lives in New York with her husband.

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