Friday, October 26, 2012

I am Forbidden / Anouk Markovits 302 pp.

Beginning in WWII in the border area between Romania and Hungary among a community of Satmar, a Hasidic sect, and continuing to Paris and Brooklyn, this is the story of a family told through the eyes of two sisters.  One embraces her strict but communally-minded faith, while the other breaks away to pursue life on the 'outside.'

Apart from the fact that Markovits' writing is amazing - perfectly paced, unpredictable, and moving - her book is striking for its balance.  According to the author bio, Markovits herself was raised in a French Satmar community which she later left.  Other accounts I have read by authors who left a strict religious upbringing, be it Christian fundamentalism, Mormonism, or Islam, have a whiff (or full-blown stench) of superiority.  Leaving their communities of origin seems always to be a relief and a necessity.  And so it may have been for Markovits as well, but she doesn't betray it in her book.  Each sister loses and gains by taking her particular path, which leaves the reader much freer to explore both realities.  Entirely free of cliches, humane, and strongly recommended.

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