Sara and Maziar are both Persian, and their parents and ancestors are from Iran.
The problem is that Sara’s family is Muslim, and Maziar’s family is Jewish. If you know anything about the centuries of unrest in the Middle East, you know that the differences in religion is a huge deal. Turns out that it is also a pretty big deal between Persians living in California.
Sara and Maziar, neither of whom are overly religious, are determined to make their relationship work. Maziar is confident than everything will be okay. Sara is more practical, and she has her doubts. But that doesn’t stop her from pursuing the relationship. The problems in their relationship is caused by their family members. Sara’s family is mostly accepting of Maziar, though they are not pleased with their only daughter’s relationship. Maziar’s family is dead set against the relationship, and they succeed in breaking the two of up for a matter of years. Even after Sara and Maziar are brought back together, his family won’t accept it. But, during their second chance at love, Sara and Maziar are determined to let no one and nothing come between them.
FORBIDDEN BY FAITH, Negeen Papehn’s debut novel, is a very interesting contemporary romance novel. Instead of playing out over a matter of days, weeks, or months like a lot of romance novels, FORBIDDEN BY FAITH plays out over years. It also isn’t rushed or (sometimes) unbelievable, the relationship between Sara and Maziar is an authentic, true-to-life romance. And the novel isn’t just about the romance between Sara and Maziar, it’s also about their relationships between their family and friends. It’s about their lives – from school, to work, to just day-to-day life.
The story is told entirely from Sara’s perspective. The reader is taken along on a journey of ups and downs as they follow Sara for multiple years. The novel begins on the night that Sara meets Maziar when she is a 24 year old graduate student. The novel ends a few years later – after Sara is done with school and embarking on the next stage of her life. Sara is a very likeable character – though she does seem to cry a lot. The reader will feel her struggles as she fights for her relationship with Maziar. The reader will also feel for Sara as she finds her independence and begins to break from the expectations placed upon her by her family. Her parents expect Sara to be a good Persian daughter by following their dictates. Until she meets Maziar, she has based nearly all of her life decisions on what her parents would approve of. Dating a Jewish man (even if he is also Persian) is definitely not something that her parents would approve of. Dating a Caucasian Christian during the years where Sara and Maziar are broken up upsets them even more. Sara wants her parents’ approval, but she also wants to live her life as she wants to. Watching her grow and assert her independence and dreams for her life are captivating. The readers will definitely find themselves cheering for Sara during her journey.
I thoroughly enjoyed FORBIDDEN BY FAITH. The romance between Sara and Maziar was realistic and, at times, heartbreaking. As is her relationship with her parents, brother, and friends. All of the various relationships fills the pages of the novel and help shape Sara as a person. The novel is very well written, and the characters are all fully developed. I can’t wait to see what is next from Negeen Papehn!