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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Life on Mars
Jennifer Brown
The Family Under the Bridge
Natalie Savage Carlson

I Am Forbidden: A Novel

I am Forbidden - Anouk Markovits

I am mystified by meandering rivers. I've never seen one in person, but I've seen photos and these have grabbed my attention. Part of what makes these rivers so beautiful are their wide arcs back and forth. If you were on any point of one of these rivers, you'd see things differently. You might, at first, think the river that flowed parallel to yours was a different river that would eventually merge with your own.

Much in the same way, I Am Forbidden meanders through scenery that is beautiful heading for a destination that seems clear one moment, then changes. Zoom out and you'll find a story that looks similar to this river. A story that goes this way, then that. It's more than 2/3 of the way through the novel before the story—the real story at the heart of this novel—begins to come into focus.

Some will see this as poor planning. Others may see it as the writer's style, or maybe they'll propose an underlying theme in the drifting story. I'm not sure why Markovits covered such a broad range in a novel that could have been much more focused, but it's not something your average writer would undertake. To be clear, I Am Forbidden has a focal point in a small cast of characters, but the places they go, the events they experience, so much of it doesn't seem necessary to the story itself. So, in my opinion, it may be a little too easy for a reader to scratch their head for more than 200 pages and think “Where is this story going?” And for some readers that sort of thinking may mean putting the book aside for an indefinite period of time.

Once the story becomes clear, however, it does stay focused. It's a good story and the insight it gives the reader into a Hasidic Jewish family makes it well worth it. It is a heartbreaking story, but I think had more time been spent with these last hundred pages it would've been much more affective; the farther from the story I move, the less memorable it becomes.