It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 15.0

Happy Monday everyone! This week I am participating in the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme.


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

My thoughts on books I recently finished:


Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

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.

Before reading this book I knew nothing about Hasidic Judaism, much less the Satmar sect. Admittedly, there were several times at the beginning of the story where I was a bit confused (and was forced to re-listen to whole passages) due to this lack of context, but as I grew more acclimated to the story and the language I was enthralled and quickly finished this sweeping and sometimes very sad novel.

This story is populated with a rich cast of characters, but the two sisters, Mila and Atara, are the heart of the story. Despite being very close as young girls, they grow apart as their differing views of faith begin to affect their life choices. After things come to head and Atara leaves the family, the story revolves almost solely around Mila. Mila is a complex and very admirable character, but there is a large hole throughout much of the rest of the narrative where Atara should be. Both of these women, their experiences and emotions, felt very real to me which is probably due in large part to the fact that Markovits herself grew up in a Satmar family and left when she was 19. In centering the story around Mila and not Atara (whose life choices mirror the author’s), it seems like Markovits could be exploring the path she choose not to take.

Despite some pacing problems and my constant wondering about Atara’s life, I really enjoyed this novel. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the culture and the traditions of the Satmar sect, and also by the true life story of the Satmar Rebbe who escaped the Holocaust while his followers remained behind (which had drastic consequences for the fictional Mila and her family). Additionally, I think Markovits does a beautiful job exploring the boundaries between faith, personal freedom, and family responsibility through Mila and Atara. This is a great read and I definitely recommend it! 4/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

the smartest guys in the room

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

27mantel"Bringing Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel

This Week I am reading:


Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

This Week I am listening to:

frozen in timeSynopsis adapted from Goodreads:

On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane on a routine flight slammed into the Greenland ice cap. Four days later, a B-17 on the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived. The U.S. military launched a second daring rescue operation, but the Grumman Duck amphibious plane sent to find the men flew into a severe storm and vanished.

In this thrilling adventure, Mitchell Zuckoff offers a spellbinding account of these harrowing disasters and the fate of the survivors and their would-be saviors. Frozen in Time places us at the center of a group of valiant airmen fighting to stay alive through 148 days of a brutal Arctic winter by sheltering from subzero temperatures and vicious blizzards in the tail section of the broken B-17 until an expedition headed by famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen attempts to bring them to safety.

But that is only part of the story that unfolds in Frozen in Time. In present-day Greenland, Zuckoff joins the U.S. Coast Guard and North South Polar—a company led by the indefatigable dreamer Lou Sapienza, who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight—on a dangerous expedition to recover the remains of the lost plane’s crew.

Drawing on intensive research and Zuckoff ’s firsthand account of the dramatic 2012 expedition, Frozen in Time is a breathtaking blend of mystery, adventure, heroism, and survival. It is also a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of our military personnel and their families—and a tribute to the important, perilous, and often-overlooked work of the U.S. Coast Guard.


What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cassie
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 16:26:39

    I love a novel surrounding (before, during, or after) WWII so I will have to pick up the first one that you read, however, I’m not sure I will like the pacing either. Pacing is SO IMPORTANT to my reading and liking a book I think.


    • exlibrisheather
      Nov 11, 2013 @ 16:47:46

      It’s a really good book and really interesting, and definitely worth the read! I totally agree on the importance of pacing! It wasn’t the worst in terms of pacing, but if you read it I think you’ll see what I mean.


  2. Lindsey
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 10:56:01

    I have I Am Forbidden on my tbr list. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it!


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