Jesus, I hope this is worth reading. It got loooong…
This isn’t something that has inspired me, per se, but I just finished this book and felt like I needed to talk about it - and since I apparently need to update my professional Tumblr more, I might as well do it here. And I suppose it did inspire me to write something…
It may not be a surprise to know I enjoy books about twisted minds, fucked up situations and (since I also write the stuff) sexuality. So when I found “Forbidden” - a story about a brother and sister who fall in love - I was intrigued and in the mood for something a bit weird.
What I got was actually a genuinely heart-wrenching romance between two incredibly messed up, sad, lonely people.
Seventeen year old Lochan and sixteen year old Maya are essentially responsible for the running of their household - their father left them, and their mother has gone off the rails, trying to recapture her youth - leaving her five children, ranging from five to seventeen, alone for weeks at a time while she drinks and courts new boyfriends. Lochan and Maya spend their days cooking, cleaning, trying to corral their three younger siblings, trying to keep their head above water at school during the run up to their GCSE’s - as well as struggling to keep themselves from falling apart from the pressure of their own psychological scars. They rely on each other to keep going when they falter. And, over time, their feelings develop into something far deeper…
This book is incredibly emotional. Everyone in this story is broken. There is always a crisis. If the younger children aren’t disappearing from school, the older children - especially Lochan and his brother, the angsty, angry teenager Kit - are lashing out at each other…just in time for their absentee mother to drift back through their lives and cause chaos, only to drift back out again as soon as she gets bored of her “bunnies”. This makes it all the more realistic that Maya and Lochan draw so much from each other. They are both so desperate for love, and only one person is giving it. And yet, even that brings more heartache for the little family. If you are familiar with any tragic love story - especially Romeo and Juliet - you will see the moment of the young couple’s undoing coming a mile off.
My only critique is that sometimes the prose gets in the way of the story. Sometimes when we are seeing the world through Lochan’s eyes, especially near the beginning, when we don’t know him very well, his internal monologue feels a little overwritten. And the book has a bad habit of asking the “big questions” of consensual incest literally, breaking the fourth wall. I’m invested in your love, guys, you don’t need to ask me to think about it!
The beauty of this story is in the characters. I’ve read incest stories before - Ian McEwan’s “The Cement Garden” comes to mind. However, aside from a few key scenes, I can remember very little about what made those characters tick, or even their names. They were just sociopathic, end of story. I have a feeling these lonely, broken children will be with me for a long time. Even Kit, who is essentially the antagonist for a good portion of the novel, is an interesting character, and you can understand totally why he is the way he is. You can’t help feeling for him as his anger and directionless hate become his downfall at the end of the novel. And I can say that he is a perfectly written bratty teenage boy!
That sums this story up for me. You may not agree with some of the actions of the characters, or even really like them - the mother is one of the most disgusting parents in modern fiction…but you understand them.
I’ve read a lot of critique of this story that runs along the lines of “Why did this story have to be so sad?! Why couldn’t it have had a happy ending?” I disagree with this entirely. We read fiction to feel things. Just because we get invested in characters doesn’t mean we are entitled to a happy ending. And, as it is said throughout the novel, there is absolutely no way of this ending without casualties. “Happily ever after” is not an option.
I sat in Starbucks today, reading the last chapter of “Forbidden”, sobbing. It’s a bitterly, bitterly sad book. But I don’t regret reading it.