I Am Forbidden

  • by Anouk Markovits
  • Narrated by Rosalyn Landor
  • 7 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular Hasidic sect, the Satmar....
Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I Am Forbidden brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.
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. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. 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. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.
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 makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.
A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, I Am Forbidden announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new voice and opens a startling window on a world long closed to most of us, until now.


What the Critics Say

“Orphaned during the Holocaust, two ultra-orthodox Jews bound by love and faith are driven apart by the same forces in a sensitive consideration of tradition and commitment. [A] sober, finely etched scrutiny of extreme belief set in a female context.” (Kirkus)
“Tracing the Stern family from Transylvania to Paris and Brooklyn, [Markovits] focuses on daughter Atara and adopted daughter Mila, closer than close, until Atara wants more than the Satmar world can offer. Markovits plays fair: the believers are not stupid; their harsh world has beauty. We dwellers in the modern world know what “should” happen, but Markovits shows why, for those in the other world, it’s not that simple.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Markovits immediately draws the reader in to a family saga of faith and longhidden secrets, set among the Hasidic Jews of eastern Europe and spanning four generations. A stunning novel; highly recommended.” (Library Journal)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Damning of the Law and by the Law

This audio book is absolutely incredible. The story which goes inside the lives of Hasidic Jewish families brings an onslaught of emotions. I didn't know that the holocaust reached into Romania, until I listened to this book. Then to learn that Hasidic Jews believe and teach that the atrocities that the Jewish people suffered during World War II by the evil Third Reich are somehow a punishment that they deserve . . . oh, my, it is so sad. Yet there is an order, an extreme love of family and tradition in these people that one cannot fail to see and appreciate. Josef's story is haunting and beautiful. And all through the book, I prayed that he would return to the brave Gentile maiden who rescued him and became his second mother, and who revealed to him the only mercy he had ever known in his life, the grace and love of Jesus Christ. This isn't a religious book. It's so much more. It's a book that makes one question things. It is sad, victorious, triumphant, and yet, you will end up, like we all do, knowing that we, human beings, alone, we are not enough. And we CAN NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH. My heart broke every time that the Hasidic Jews chanted, Come my Messiah, come. They danced and sang. They punished themselves. They tried to keep a pure bloodline. Yet, all the while missing the gift that God send to them. Rejecting joy. Rejecting mercy. Josef's dreams of Jesus were haunting. This tale is beautifully written and the narration is just right.
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- Debbie "Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper."


This book is a gem. It is not just a glimpse into life of the Satmar's hasidim, it is full of universal themes - belonging, love, honesty, devotion, interconnectedness of generations. It had a special meaning for me, because I am an immigrant, a Jew, and my grandparents and parents were Holocaust survivors. The pain of leaving one's country (despite persecution), losing loved ones, feeling like you don't belong, being rejected by your own family, by your own people is palpable in the book. Rosalyn Landor did a superb job, as always.
If you are not familiar with Jewish history and Judaism, read about it. Hasidut is a movement in Judaism. To me, their beliefs seem closer to Christianity, with the emphasis on Salvation, Resurrection of the dead in the "world to come", Messiah coming any day,divine holiness of their rebbes who rule like kings.It is a lifestyle, and they are not holier then anyone else. Satmar Hasidim do not acknowledge the existence of the state of Israel. Hypocrisy of their Rebbe, who saved himself by boarding the "Zionist" train, while his community was sent to the ovens thanks to his silence speaks for itself.
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- nursebettyknitting "knitting fiend"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-08-2012
  • Publisher: Random House Audio