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I Am Forbidden
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May 2018: Family Drama > I am Forbidden; 4 Stars

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Hahtoolah | 439 comments I am Forbidden is a look into the life of the ultra-orthodox Satmar community. The novel begins in 1939 in Transylvania and follows the family of Zalman Stern, and his extended family through to Paris and Williamsburg, New York.

Five-year old Josef Lichentenstein sees his family murdered and is raised by the family’s gentile maid, Florina. When he is 10, he rescues Mila Heller after her family was killed running for the Kasztner train, an historical event, that transported approximately 1,600 Jews from Hungary to safety in Switzerland. Her parents were running to meet the Rebbe who was to have saved them.

Josef sends Mila to Zalman Stern’s family who adopt her. Zalman has several children, including Atara, who is about the same age as Mila and the two become very close.
Zalman is a leader in the Satmar community and his family must live by the very strict and rigid rules of that community. Following World War II, the family moved to Paris to escape the communist regime. They live isolated from the secular aspects of Paris. The girls attend a religious school where they learn how to observe the tight rules.

Atria is curious about the secular world. She questions the fundamentalist doctrine and leaves the community to avoid an early arranged marriage. From then on, she is totally cut off from her family.

Mila, however, remains religious. She is sent to Williamsburg to marry Josef, the boy who saved her years earlier. Their marriage is challenged with their struggle with childlessness. There are strict rules within their community regarding their inability to produce children, which is a constant pain for the couple. The novel explores a resolution that test the bonds of the couple.

I found this book a bit difficult to get into, but once I did, I found it difficult to put down.


message 2: by Booknblues (new) - added it

Booknblues | 6866 comments I have this book on my tbr. It sounds like I need to move it up.


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