I discovered ‘Forbidden’ by Tabitha Suzuma through the review of fellow blogger Kelly from Kelly Vision. (Thanks Kelly J) The premise behind the story pulled me in and I couldn’t resist the book. I got the book last week and though I was busy during the beginning of the week, I got into the book towards the end of the week and finished it in a couple of days. This is what I think.
What I think
Lochan and Maya are in their late teens and are the eldest children in their family. They have two brothers and a sister. Their parents are divorced. Their dad has gone to live in Australia with his new wife. Their mom is an alcoholic, is a waitress in a restaurant and is seeing the owner of the restaurant. She doesn’t have time for her children and is not at home most of time, after work. This puts a lot of pressure on Lochan and Maya, as, though they are children, they have to act like adults and take care of their younger siblings and also cover up for their mother. As otherwise, social services might step in and that would be the end of them as a family unit. While doing this, the unexpected happens. Lochan and Maya fall in love with each other. They know it is incestuous and forbidden, and they try to ignore it and try to find other partners, but it doesn’t work. Then they learn to live with their feelings for each other, always worried about what will happen to them and their family if their secret comes out. The story lurches from crisis to crisis with tender moments in between. One worries about the fates of Lochan and Maya and wants them to be happy in the end. But one fears that things may not go that way. And that turns out to be true. The ending is tragic and heartbreaking. It made me cry. In the final few pages, I could feel the author pause, while she thought what to do – whether she should deal a double blow by inflicting another tragedy on the reader or whether she should take the opposite route and have a life-affirming ending. By that time I knew that things were not going to be happy, either way. A double blow was going to make me cry more, though it probably wouldn’t feel as hard as the first one. A life-affirming ending would be something which would continue the status quo of the story in a more difficult situation. I felt the author move her pen (or her hands over the keyboard) after the pause and choose the second one. It was disappointing in a way – because what it meant was that the nice characters in the story whom we cared for and rooted for from the beginning were going to continue to suffer and struggle in silence, while the not-so-nice characters were going to continue to be irresponsible and have fun. It felt so unfair. But I wouldn’t blame the author for that. When the choice is between the devil and the deep sea or a rock and a hard place, it is difficult to pick one.
I read a little bit about Tabitha Suzuma, after I read the book. I was surprised that such a talented author like her, who didn’t shy away from controversial topics, was not so well-known before. I liked the things I read about her. I liked the fact that she was British – the YA landscape has so few British writers (except for the YA fantasy landscape which has more than a few) that it felt like a whiff of fresh air. It was also interesting to know that Suzuma also has a Japanese background as her father was Japanese. Which is also unique, I think, because there are no Japanese origin YA writers that I know of. I also read that Suzuma has four siblings and she is the eldest and her family was beset with problems when she was growing up and all the children went through a depressive phase during their childhood. Her experience comes out in the book as parts of it look like they might have been based on actual experience – they look so genuine and real. Lochan, though he plays the role of a parent at home, is painfully shy at school and the way Suzuma depicts it is sensitive and realistic. I could identify with some of that, as I too was a painfully shy guy at school.
This is the second heartbreaking love story that I have read in the last few months. I don’t know what it is between me and heartbreakers, but we seem to be having a love affair.
‘Forbidden’ is an unconventional love story. It explores the limits of what is possible and what is not, in human relationships, and asks questions on why we believe what we believe and how social rules have evolved and what happens when we try breaking them or crossing a line in the sand. ‘Forbidden’ is also the story of a family which tries to stay together through good times and bad and the compromises it has to make and the battles it has to fight to have the simple life, the pleasures and the comforts that many of us take for granted.
If you like a good love story, are not worried about taboo topics, and don’t mind a heartbreaking ending, you will love this book. As for myself, I want to explore more of Suzuma’s books.
Before ending, I will leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book.
I wonder what it would be like to be shut up in this airless glass box, slowly baked for two long months by the relentless sun, able to see the outdoors – the wind shaking the green trees right there in front of you – hurling yourself again and again at the invisible wall that seals you off from everything that is real and alive and necessary, until eventually you succumb: scorched, exhausted, overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task. At what point does a fly give up trying to escape through a closed window – do its survival instincts keep it going until it is physically capable of no more, or does it eventually learn after one crash too many that there is no way out? At what point do you decide that enough is enough?
Have you read ‘Forbidden’? What do you think about it?