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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma

This is one of those unfortunate books that is absolutely ruined by its ending. I was set to give this book four stars -- if I had lost the book before finishing the last chapter, perhaps I would have. But I can't in good conscience do that, not when it handles an incredibly sensitive topic incredibly poorly. And no, I'm not talking about the incest -- the incest was the incredibly sensitive topic that it handled well.

When a brother and a sister who are essentially raising their younger siblings in the shadow of an absent father and a mostly absent/alcoholic mother take their relationship to a romantic level, you can kind of expect that it will end badly. They dream of moving away when they are older, someplace where no one knows them, so they can live as lovers openly, but even that "best-case-scenario" outcome requires lifelong hiding of another sort. So no, there is no way this story can end well, and it would have been irresponsible to pretend as though it could -- even though it is well written enough, the characters vivid enough, that deep down, you really, really do want to root for them. Although the sex scenes are somewhat explicit and focused on male desire (we don't see clear sexual satisfaction for Maya, except the satisfaction she gets from turning Lochan on), it doesn't come across as particularly gratuitous. It's a "slow-burn" romance, so it takes a while to come to the surface, and when it does there's a lot of angsting over it, which I didn't mind. I found the characters to be well-developed, especially within the family. Lochan's social anxiety was handled particularly well, and I could see how it factored into his inability to connect with girls outside his own home, as well as how his vulnerability made him appealing to Maya. Overall, the author did a good job of setting up the "perfect storm" that made me believe something like this could happen.

I think the dual narration was necessary in a story like this, because it was the only way the reader could be convinced that the incest really was consensual; the whole tone of the story is changed if there is doubt about that. Where the dual narration didn't work was in its total non-distinction of different "voices" for Maya and Lochan -- I was usually only oriented to who was narrating because of the other being spoken of in third person. It's a shame that a book that had such well developed characters couldn't also equip them with more distinct narrative voices.

Overall, this book had a lot going for it. It's too bad it botched it all up in the end.