“You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.”
I love the feeling after reading a book that just leaves you wanting more. It doesn’t even have to be a particularly profound book. It just has to be a book that leaves a piece of the story with you as you go about your day. It sticks to the intricacies of your mind and settles itself inside of you. It stays with you for a lifetime.
If you want to read the book for yourself, just be aware that I will be spoiling some major plot lines in this post.
Before I dive into this book, I should point out that this isn’t a book I would recommend to those who are close-minded. Why? Because, as the title suggests, it’s a book about forbidden love. It’s about an incestuous relationship between a brother and a sister. Like an actual non-platonic, highly romantic and physical relationship between siblings.
Eugh, Leonie! Why would you even read a book like this?!
The first time I read a book by Tabitha Suzuma was during my earlier years in high school. I read her first novel A Note of Madness. It’s a story about an extremely gifted pianist who struggles with mental illness. I finished the book within a night. I was swept away by the depths of the words that resonated so acutely with the anxiety that I felt. That’s what really captivated me about Tabitha’s storytelling – she writes about mental illness in such a raw and honest way. It’s like you’re living and breathing the story.
Forbidden, is obviously one of Tabitha’s most controversial novels. I knew what I was getting myself into when I finally decided to purchase the book. I had been wanting to read it for many years but never really got around to it until recently.
The story is told in first person narrative and switches between the perspective of seventeen-year-old Lochan and his sixteen-year-old sister Maya. They come from a very disruptive and unconventional family with three younger siblings. They have been abandoned by their father and more or less abandoned by their alcoholic mother who is more interested in dating and partying than actually being a responsible mum. Lochan and Maya are left to take care of the family and household duties.
Already it can be seen that there’s this tension and strain between the characters. Not only that, but Lochan struggles with deep social anxiety that stops him from reaching his full potential at school. He’s a highly intellectual loner who is incredibly self-aware. At times, he seems way older than seventeen – but then considering his situation at home I guess it really forces him to think and act beyond his years.
The only person who he can really be himself around is his sister and best-friend, Maya. As expected by the summary and the title, Lochan and Maya begin to develop feelings for each other. It starts off so innocently and for a while, you almost forget that they’re siblings. The blossoming love for each other is just like how any other love would be. I didn’t exactly find myself rooting for them, but I could understand how in a world where everything seemed against them, they found comfort in each other.
“At the end of the day it’s about how much you can bear, how much you can endure. Being together, we harm nobody; being apart, we extinguish ourselves.”
Eventually, their relationship turns physical. It starts off with a kiss that sets off a physical yearning that curious teenagers can only begin to experience. Throughout the novel, Lochan and Maya struggle to keep their distance from each other. There’s this need for emotional and physical support. Yes, Lochan is in every way messed up and the only person who makes him feel some sort of normalcy is Maya.
All the tension inevitably leads to the sex scene. The sex scene is written in such an honest way that captures the genuine love between Lochan and Maya. I’ve read a lot of sex scenes in my life and I must say, this was probably one of the better written ones. It’s gentle, raw and realistic. But that gentleness, that beautiful moment caught in time is quickly ripped away by a shattering scream. They are found out by their estranged mother who rings the police.
Incest is illegal.
At this point, the novel has erupted into a mess – everything from this point happens fast and it’s impossible to put the book down. Lochan is sent to jail where his thoughts become unhinged. I think this is the part that Tabitha manages to capture so well – the irrational thoughts that come from pure desperation. It’s a desperation that’s dripping with heavy anxiety and mental complications.
As a reader, I am Lochan. I am Lochan as he inspects his cell, looking for a way out. I am Lochan as he hooks his arms around the bars. Inspects the rust. Metal cutting into his flesh. Tightens the noose. Sobs. And lets go.
“As the light begins to intensify, so does my misery, and I wonder how it is possible to hurt so much when nothing is wrong.”
It’s an interesting and controversial topic. I’ve always been so fascinated by taboo subjects. I find there’s a piece of me that can feel empathy for marginalised people in society – the people who, due to their childhood have been left mentally scarred.
I’m fascinated by the minds of people who struggle with fantasies that society deems inappropriate. It’s not to say that I necessarily agree with their actions, but I think it just tugs a little bit on my heartstrings when I read a story where it’s obvious that they’re hurting on the inside. It’s kind of like how I felt reading One of Us by Åsne Seierstad about the story of Anders Breivik – the Norwegian man who massacred over 70 children. It’s like when you read the story, you can’t help but feel sorry for him because clearly, his childhood and the lack of love in his life led him to such a hateful and destructive path. The same goes for 50 Shades of Grey. I was so fascinated by Christian’s story, his mindset and the reasons why he was so lustful for dominance in his sexual endeavours.
I think books that touch on controversial subjects really makes you think about how poisonous life can be when we neglect the intrinsic need for love in our lives.
Forbidden definitely left some unanswered questions. I feel like there were parts that weren’t neatly tied up – but isn’t that life? Sometimes I read stories for the happy ending, but sometimes it’s just refreshing to read a story that tells it as it is (which is why I was left like, ‘eugh’ at the ending of the 50 Shades of Grey series… way too happy for my liking).
I would definitely recommend Forbidden to those who like to be challenged on controversial topics. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to my sixteen-year-old self (because I must admit, a lot of the novels I read as a teenager have impacted my perspective on life… and maybe not in the best way).
But yeah. Wow. Honestly, I loved the book. It’s left a piece of itself with me.
“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?”
Until next time.