4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A hard, bitter, and wonderful read.,
This review is from: I Am Forbidden: A Novel (Hardcover)
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It took me a while to really get into this story, but once I got used to all the names I couldn't pronounce, the exotic locale that I had a hard time placing, and the Judaic terminology, I found myself totally engaged in this story that has all the best elements of a sweeping family saga. I Am Forbidden offers up a riveting look at one family and their struggles to keep to what they consider to be God's Laws. I know nothing about Hasidic culture, and what I learned in this book certainly doesn't make me a fan. The story of Mila and Josef, Zalman and Hannah, Atara and finally Judith spans three generations. All of these characters are very complex, and their internal struggles with God and family make for fascinating reading.
The story begins during World War II, when both Josef's and Mila's families are killed. Orphaned and placed in the care of Zalman, Josef is shipped off to America while Mila is raised in Paris. The author's portrayal of the role of women in this culture was eye-opening to say the least. As Atara struggles with questions concerning her faith and her own desire to see more of the secular world, Mila becomes even more firmly ensconced in her predestined future as a wife and mother. Atara's rebellion, which originally takes the form of a trip to the public library of all things, was well portrayed and I just wish we would have learned more of her story. This was my only complaint in what was otherwise a breathtaking novel full of drama and unimaginable heartbreak.
I Am Forbidden is not an easy journey to take, however I'm very glad I stayed with it. The glimpse into the Hasidic culture left me with lots of questions, and the story of the Jews leaving Transylvania left me with a new perspective on a horrible time. This novel is very sad, and I only wish I knew more about this culture that seems so desperate to constrain its people, encouraging punishment and neglecting forgiveness.
So, I Am Forbidden was a sometimes hard, bitter read that was wonderfully written and carefully observed. This is a recommend for any fan of literary fiction looking for a glimpse into a society rarely seen.