Thursday, November 1, 2012
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Christian 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. 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. Mila's faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore.
This book a very powerful read and pulled me in from the very beginning. This intimate look at the tragedy of the Holocaust from the perspective of two families was moving and engrossing. I eagerly followed the story of Josef, Mila and Atara as they grew to adulthood, hoping that all would be well for these people who so desperately deserved some happiness.
It is hard to explain my concerns with the novel without giving away too much of the plot, but essentially halfway through the book, one of the main characters disappeared from the narrative not to re-emerge for decades. Because Atara dropped away form the story, I was left feeling that the story was incomplete. Josef and Mila's tale is tragic and compelling but I wanted also to learn about how Atara dealt with the choices she made. I was also dissatisfied with the end of the book which was just too bleak for me.
Well-written and compelling, this story was nonetheless incomplete for me.