Unabridged ( 7 hours and 17 minutes)
Author: Anouk Markovits
Narration: Rosalyn Landor
Release Date: 05-08-12
Publisher: Random House Audio
Listened: April 12, 2015- April 14, 2015
From Audible: Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile 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… As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters make force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.
The world of the Hasidic community is completely unknown to me. Yes, I have been to Israel, and yes, I have many Jewish friends, but when I came across this title I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn more about the exotic lives of those men and women.
I Am Forbidden is a cultural journey that follows three generations of a Hasidic Jewish family from Romania to the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, NY. The novel focuses on the Satmar community, the most insular of the Hasidic sect and the lives of Joseph, a boy raised by a Catholic Romanian, Mila who is adopted by the family of the Rebbe Zalman Stern, and Atara–Mila’s adopted sister.
Atara and Mila form a close bond, but when Atara starts to question the laws of Hasidic Judaism, Mila is forced to distance herself from her. Mila and Joseph eventually marry and move to Williamsburg. Mila makes a decision that her community sees as a grave sin, and the consequences of her actions will follow generations to come.
The meaningful themes of this novel include the writing, which has moments of pure beauty, the cultural insights, and characters vividly portrayed. Although I am Forbidden is not an uplifting story, I would definitely recommend this book even if you are not interested in Hasidism simply for the beautiful love story filled with biblical imagery, and for the beautiful narration. Rosalyn Landor’s haunting voice gives this novel the perfect tone.