Stephan Lee
May 11, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

I Am Forbidden

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Anouk Markovits
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

Most Americans know very little about Hasidic Jews — and virtually nothing about the Satmar, the most insular Hasidic sect. I Am Forbidden follows two Satmar sisters, devout Mila and rebellious Atara, from World War II-era Transylvania to 1960s Paris to modern-day Brooklyn. Once inseparable, the two grow apart as Mila embraces the regimented Satmar community while Atara is ”erased” from it — until a profoundly heretical secret brings them back together. Markovits’ English-language debut is a challenging read. Her spring-loaded prose speeds through decades, continents, and Hasidic rituals, sometimes without waiting for you to catch up. But this ambitious, revelatory novel (which includes a helpful glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms) richly rewards your efforts and heralds a promising new writer. A-

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