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Thursday, July 04, 2013

My review of The Outcast, a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter by Jolina Petersheim.

About the book:

Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel Stoltzfus is a strong-willed single woman, content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of the religious sect as she is shunned by those she loves most. She is eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop.

But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.

My review:

Wow! Not since reading Cantrell's "Into the Free," have I been so emotionally moved by a story. There were so many things that this author did well. Her writing style is emotionally evocative, and her words are expressed with such beauty that I became fully immersed in the book. Her use of characters to bring out different truths was sheer perfection. I especially loved how she used Amos's point of view from the "great cloud of witnesses" as a way of showing omniscience, but in a much more compelling fashion that is typically seen in fiction. It added more complexity and depth to the plot and revealed things the reader might otherwise not have known.

The way the author slowly trickled in the facts that led up to the night Rachel's world imploded from one bad decision was extremely well done. It drew my attention like a mystery plot and kept me wondering, until a surge of emotion hit me when the secret was brought to light and the truth finally came out. The serious illness was a perfect conduit to provoke the needed revelation. The suffering Rachel felt while her son suffered was deep and profoundly written.

I loved Judah so much for so many reasons. His undying devotion going back to their childhood made him so heroic in my eyes. The pain he felt and the forgiveness he extended -- after releasing the anger that seemed very natural given the unsavory revelation -- made me want to weep for him. Even Tobias made my heart ache because of the true repentance he experienced. What a difference it can make when we own our actions and stop blaming others for our own sins, eh?

To sum things up, this was a fantastic book. In fact, of all the books that I've read this year, I think this one makes the top of my list. I read this entire book in a day. The premise intrigued me, but I've read many story plots that sounded great, but were weak in their execution. This was a powerful story on many levels. It is not a cookie cutter Amish/Mennonite plot, but unique and enthralling... for me as a reader. I normally won't read fiction about strict religious orders be they Amish or Mennonite, but this book surpassed my expectations. What a fantastic debut!

The Outcast was published by Tyndale and released in July 2013.

1 comment:

Jolina Petersheim said...

Thank you for the very special review, Michelle! I am going to post it to my Facebook author page. It's the best one The Outcast's received yet!(Probably because of how much I love Julie and her novel, Into the Free!)



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