Saturday, 1 September 2012

I am Forbidden

Finished August 28
I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

This novel draws from the life of the author. Markovits was raised in the Satmar tradition, an ultra-conservative Jewish sect. She left it at the age of nineteen to avoid an arranged marriage and went on to further education, eventually earning a doctorate.
The novel follows three characters and begins in Transylvania, Romania near the end of World War II. Josef, a young Jewish boy, survives the murder of his family and is taken in by the family's Gentile maid, passed off as her own child. Another Jewish family is killed rushing to meet the Rebbe they believed would save them, leaving a young daughter, Mila. Josef helps Mila reach the Jewish community her father wanted her to go to, and she is raised by a family there, but never forgets Josef. Years later, Mila's story leads to Josef being taken back into the Jewish fold and sent to a religious life in the new world. Mila and her adopted family flee to Paris.
Mila grows close to her adopted sister Atara, just a year younger than her, but while Mila feels compelled to be a good Jewish woman and to one day reunite with her murdered family, Atara is full of questions, questions she is told it is not her place to ask. As these three characters' lives converge and separate we see how the question of faith becomes central to their relationships, and ultimately leads them to join together at one final crisis point.
I learned a lot about this Jewish sect, and about Romanian Jews, that I didn't know before. I found the characters interesting and would have liked to have more of Atara's story.


  1. I agree more of Atara would have been good, but I loved this one for all of what I learned about their way of life.

  2. Yes Anna, I agree. I learned so much about this sect that was interesting.