Forbidden is Tabitha Suzuma’s new novel on that very dreaded subject, incest. I had been dreading it, while also knowing I had to read it. The dreading wasn’t because I disapprove, except I can’t sit here and say I actually approve, either. Of incest; not the novel.
But I just knew that however positive a novel Forbidden might be, it just couldn’t end well. And that’s a problem. It doesn’t end well. No spoiler there. You just couldn’t end with a happily-ever-after incestuous relationship, however much you’d want to.
And you do want to. Trust me.
It made me think of inter-racial relationships not so very long ago. They weren’t just frowned on; they were illegal. That has changed. Could this change too?
Maya and Lochan are sister and brother; 16 and 17 years old. They are lovely people, and they really do love each other. It’s not simply lust. I kept feeling they were just too lovely. But had they not been, we would have frowned on their relationship. As it is, we like them and feel for them and love them back.
They have a father who left years ago. They have an inadequate mother, who is almost never there at all. And they have three younger siblings who they look after, trying to keep the family from being torn apart by social services.
At first I wondered why Tabitha added this complication to the equation, but it’s necessary. They have to have something to fear, so they have to reign in their feelings. The way they play mum and dad to their siblings makes them impossibly good, and they are clever academically, and very mature when we read their thoughts, as we do.
But we do need to respect them. And they have a problem that is just not going to go away. It’s mainly a case of when it’s going to go bad, and how.
Until it does, it’s an almost happy story, with so much that is positive, if we discount the ghastly parents.
I’m not sure why Tabitha felt the compulsion to write this book. I’m guessing she thinks that incest is not quite as black and white as we mostly tend to believe. The question is whether society can rethink the rules and boundaries for this, too, in the way race has ceased to be the big problem it was. Or same-sex love.
Is this different?