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Sex Is Forbidden: A Novel Hardcover – October 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611459079
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611459074
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in a contemporary Buddhist retreat, this sluggish novel by Parks (Europa) reflects on one women's quest for self-purification, despite her love of trouble. Beth Marriot has escaped to Dasgupta Institute to forget her destructive love affairs, events we learn about through a series of disjointed flashbacks. There was the dependable Carl who adored her, but the unavailable and much older artist Jonathan had more of her heart—through we don't get to know either well enough to care about this love triangle. As Beth stalls in her decision between these two lovers, her recklessness causes a fatal accident that causes her to flee to Dasgupta. Working as a server at a Buddhist retreat, where contact with the opposite sex is forbidden, Beth is forced to confront the painful formations of the mind, sankharas. But even as she's meditating on how to emulate the stoic retreat leader, Mi Nu Wai, she is sneaking into a male guest's room to read his diary, finding solace in his hardships and pleasure in the drama of his attention. Beth's characterization as contrite reformer one minute and seductive troublemaker the next makes for a schizophrenic narrative. While the inner turmoil of someone struggling to achieve mental and spiritual balance is intriguing, the repetitive descriptions of Buddhist practices and an unconvincing character make this a frustrating read. (Oct.)

From Booklist

Life in an ashram isn’t all meditation and mung beans. At the Dasgupta Institute, the path to enlightenment can be paved with boulders and shards of glass. For former rock singer Beth Marriot, it wasn’t enough to come to the Buddhist retreat for a 10-day cleansing reboot. After the mess she’s made of her life—a near-drowning, an unplanned pregnancy, two lovers—it’s going to take a bit more time to figure out what comes next. Beth stays on as a server to those who come to ponder their existence, but after nine months, she’s as rebellious and conflicted as ever. Breaking all the rules by entering the men’s dormitory and then breaking one more by reading the forbidden diary of a mysterious man known only as “GH,” Beth finds herself caught between the desire to leave and the need to stay. Though British novelist Parks (Cleaver, 2008) seems to be sticking a very pointed joss stick in the eye of such institutions, his plaintive observations reveal a bittersweet fascination with life’s hard choices. --Carol Haggas

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Elaine Lacy on July 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved the parts of the book where characters are changed by the dharma. But the main character was shallow, inconsistent, and quite unlike able.
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Format: Hardcover
Getting quiet is not easy. The protagonist of Sex is Forbidden is practicing noble silence at a retreat center and her flights of fancy, fantasy, and the hazards of interaction deprived of speech, eye contact, and/or physical contact can make silence so very noisy! She is not without neuroses, but that's one of the things that noble silence makes prominent. Her internal monologues will be familiar in form, if not content, to anyone who has spent more than a couple days in silence. The ending is a little disappointing, but the journey is the real destination and the journey is at times funny, tragic, and poignant. One thing it is not is boring. Definitely worth a read!
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By Steven Almond on November 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
sorry it did not interest me. what Tim Parks does best is weave stories with rich Italian settings. this one was "nowhere"
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This title represents one of the pithy truths of meditation. Humans seem always to be at war with their physical selves. This has many witty and poignant moments in the life of Beth at the Ashram. Following a fatal accident, she has come to serve and has stayed on for ten months. The book follows her struggle to let go of her "gross body" sensations and to live in the spiritual within a rigid system of silence, meditation, and discipline.

While there is much to admire in this work, its length works against it. I believe this book would have made an excellent short story. As it stands, we become frustrated with Beth's daily mental struggle and with the obsesssive thoughts she is unable to put aside. In the end, another person's circular thoughts begin to wear thin, even with intervals of shared insight. I was attracted to the novel because of the subject matter of mind versus spirit in the meditative community, but I find that the internal struggle soon becomes thin on the ground. For me, the novel was still worth reading, but I can well see it is not for everyone, and probably not for most.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Winton Bates on October 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This novel tells the story, in first person, of a young woman who has spent several months at a meditation institute both as a student and as a voluntary helper (server). Despite segregation of sexes at the institute, the woman almost ends up in a relationship with an older man, after she stumbles on his diary and reads it.

The main character is likable, she faces interesting challenges and the story-line seems plausible. Tim Parks has drawn upon his fairly extensive experience of Vipassana meditation in writing this book, but his tone is not at all preachy. I leave it for other readers to judge how well the author has captured what might be happening in the mind and emotions of the young woman.

What I liked most about the novel is that manages to end on a hopeful note, despite being focused on mental suffering.
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