Release Date: May 8th 2012
Publisher: Random House Canada
Buy It: Book Depository
Spanning four generations, from pre-World War II Transylvania, to 1960s Paris, to contemporary New York, Markovits' masterful novel shows what happens when unwavering love and unyielding law clash--a rabbi will save himself while his followers perish; a Gentile maid will be commanded to give up the boy she rescued because he is not of her faith; two devoted sisters will be forced apart when one begins to question their religion's ancient doctrine.Like the characters it contains, the text of I Am Forbidden is fractured, pieces of a story that sometimes last only a paragraph; a technique that allows Markovits to cover over sixty years in three hundred pages. The concise story-telling means a lot gets covered, but it definitely takes awhile to get used to even if it's technically chronological.
Unfortunately, there were times when the brevity was such that I felt rushed, like the story moved so quickly I could barely get a sense of certain characters, especially in the last quarter of the novel that features Judith. That said, Markovits real talent lies in the ability to immerse the reader, almost instantaneously, in the foreign world of her story. I don't just mean the geographical setting is foreign, though it often is, even when it takes place in New York. What was so foreign to me, even as a Jew, was the Satmar religion, an extremely orthodox sect of Hasidim and one that Markovits herself grew up in and therefore has the kind of insight into that makes I Am Forbidden so authentic and unique.
Overall, this was an incredibly beautifully written book, and once I got involved in it I devoured 2/3rds in almost one uninterrupted sitting. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to grow up in the kind of closed community that these characters are a part of, but the way that Markovits writes it, I was there, I was a part of it, and I knew exactly.
I Am Forbidden is emotional, powerful, original and story is feels like it must have been such a part of Markovits it is hard to imagine what else she could possibly write– though of course, she already has a previous novel published in French, 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.