Anouk Markovitz does a sensational job of bringing her characters to life in this novel. A Holocaust story of love, lust and religion, the book led this reader to tears, but also to laugh out loud. A boy’s parents and sister are killed in the Holocaust and he is raised by his cleaning lady. She baptizes him and pretends he is her own. At the same time, the daughter of Satmar Hasidim watches as her very pregnant mother and her father are shot by Nazis. The daughter, Mila, runs away to live with another Hasidic family outside of the danger zone.
Years pass. When the Holocaust is over, Mila’s adopted father, Zev Stern, learns of the boy, having known his father. He rescues him and sends him to America to learn in yeshiva, to make him Jewish again. Years later, the boy Yosef is ready to be married. A match is made between Mila and Yosef.
Unfortunately, Mila cannot seem to get pregnant. After 10 years, the couple still have no children. This is shameful in the Hasidic community and causes undue stress on the couple. Mila takes matters into her own hands, and the couple conceives and has a daughter. But Mila’s decision actually drives the couple
further apart and opens for both of them a world they cannot live within — nor live without.
Their daughter marries and has her own children, and when the oldest is about to marry, everything comes to the forefront, leading to suicide, tears, joy and tragedy.
“I Am Forbidden” opens up a hidden world to its readers. In a mix of fiction rooted in the deepest of reality, it raises questions, stokes yet quells fears, and makes the reader think.