The Outcast - eBook
Beautiful Story that Transcends Genre
Jolina PetersheimÃ¢ÂÂs debut novel, The Outcast, truly transcends genre, telling a story of betrayal, legalism and jealousy, but, more importantly, of hope, healing and forgiveness. The layered plot & multi-faceted characters combined with a poetic, lyrical writing style give this novel an unexpected edgy and realistic quality that is not often found in novels of this setting.
Set in an Old Order Mennonite community, this story touches on themes of legalistic religion versus tolerant forgiveness, strained family relationships and even modern-day medicine versus holistic approaches. As the mother of an illegitimate child, Rachel Stoltzfus is at the scrutiny of the people in her community. Her decision to leave EliÃ¢ÂÂs father nameless ensures that the bigotry lands solely on her shoulders, and the lies and betrayal are left to fester underneath the surface. When her son needs life-saving medical help, the circumstances of his birth come to a head with nearly soul-shattering results.
RachelÃ¢ÂÂs personal narration is uniquely mirrored by the narration of Amos King, the deceased bishop of her community. His otherworldly perspective adds an unexpected layer to the story and provided the necessary background of past events, including what he feels was his hand in helping his son Tobias cover up his sin as well as his hand in the strained relationship between his son Judas and his older children.
PetersheimÃ¢ÂÂs descriptions were beautiful, epitomizing the idea of showing not telling. As I was reading, I felt what these characters were feeling. My heart was broken and put together again by the situations and people in this story of moving past betrayals to save a childÃ¢ÂÂs life.
There was a wonderful cast of characters that each had a compelling backstory of their own, including prickly Ida Mae, holistic healer Norman Troyer, reputation-obsessed Tobias, steadfast Judah and RachelÃ¢ÂÂs timid, secret-keeping twin, Leah Ã¢ÂÂ they were all truly wonderful. Often how they appeared on the outside was just a faÃÂ§ade to cover what was underneath. By the storyÃ¢ÂÂs end, I was convicted of my preconceived notions of right & wrong. Ultimately, who was I to judge in the light of true grace and forgiveness?
The ending left me breathless with a twist that I did not see coming. The act of two people perpetuated events with terrible consequences, and they arenÃ¢ÂÂt the two people that you would think at the storyÃ¢ÂÂs beginning. The resolution was entirely and realistically satisfying.
Subtle and outstanding, The Outcast immediately moved to my list of all-time favorites. I was so impressed by the seasoned quality JolinaÃ¢ÂÂs writing and am eager to get my hands on her upcoming title The Midwife.
November 22, 2013
Emotional journey in Retelling of Scarlet Letter
Rachel Stolztfus is living in an old order Mennonite community which quickly rejects her as her sin of sexual impurity becomes obvious. She will tell no one who the father of her child,Eli, is. She will not tell her twin, Leah, wanting to protect her from knowledge both destructive and hurtful. She also refuses to tell Judah King, the young man who has loved her since childhood. The new bishop, Leah's husband, bans Rachel from the King house and the community. Moving to another area, living with an unlikely lady, Rachel begins to find comfort and hope as she battles bitterness vs. forgiveness; secrecy vs. honesty that can save her son's life; and acceptance of real love rather than the envy of a relationship that wasn' t what it seemed. Surprisingly, others have kept secrets that have contributed to the whole " unholy" situation, and must decide how to resolve their issues to the betterment of all.
It's been said that third person point of view is one of the least well-received types of writing. Petersheim gets around this cleverly. She bounces back and forth between narration by Rachel and narration by Amos King, newly deceased bishop and father of both Judah and Leah's husband, Tobias. Amos has keen insight into his sons' characters, and a little bit of a broader perspective only one who could sea the bigger picture could have. Truly a great writing ploy. By the time I had finished the book, I felt like I had emotionally been put through one of those old- fashioned wringer washers that Rachel might have used. Fortunately, I also felt like Petersheim hung the reader's emotions out to dry on a clothesline on a warm, sunny day, with the promise of a warm, drying wind to come.
November 29, 2013
This review gives more insight than just "it was/wasn't a good book" or "this is/isn't a must read". While I try not to give too much away, sometimes it's difficult to write about the story and have it not be revealing.
Unwed Rachel Stolzfus and her infant son, Eli, were forced to leave their Mennonite community in Copper Creek, Tennessee. The coercion was done by her brother-InÃ¢ÂÂlaw, Bishop Tobias King. Rachel met up with Englisher Ida Mae Speck who offered her a place to live. With nowhere else to go Rachel took her up on the kind gesture. As the story continued Rachel found out Eli needed a bone marrow transplant, which meant the father of her child must be revealed. But Rachel swore to never tell his identity. While Rachel is the main character, there are more subplots and characters in this story that will get you so emotionally invested you wonÃ¢ÂÂt be able to put the book down.
I was pretty sure I knew who EliÃ¢ÂÂs father was before he was revealed. But there was a lot that happened that I didnÃ¢ÂÂt see coming. The author has woven the charactersÃ¢ÂÂ lives together so well yet she also showed their individuality. Most of them have a secret or two that they are hiding. There are quite a few characters in this book. The story is slow moving enough, in a good way, that I got to know and remember each person easily as I read through the pages.
The story is told in first person by Rachel and the deceased bishop Amos king, the father of Tobias and Judah, the man who loves Rachel even though she doesnÃ¢ÂÂt return his affections. Amos is up in heaven watching the entire goings on with Rachel and the others in the story. While I donÃ¢ÂÂt believe it to be biblically accurate, it gives the book an interesting perspective.
I liked how Jolina Petersheim used such illustrative words. For example, she used Ã¢ÂÂmelon of a stomachÃ¢ÂÂ for RachelÃ¢ÂÂs pregnant belly. When Rachel was watching her friend get mad she was Ã¢ÂÂwatching heat creep up the ladder of Ida MaeÃ¢ÂÂs neckÃ¢ÂÂ.
The Outcast shows the results of sin. It stretches out its tentacles and affects more than one person. The author writes about many issues: adultery, lying, gossip, suicide, being prideful, dysfunctional family relations, favoritism, and selfishness. She does a good job showing how people can destroy themselves and those around them with these issues. She also shows us how to live the way God intended for us by offering love and forgiveness to those who hurt us with those negative behaviors.
I feel this book would be unsuitable for younger readers. I wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt want my tween reading this. While I couldnÃ¢ÂÂt put it down, it had many parts that are not uplifting. This is definitely not a light read and has adult themes to it. I hate to label it as dark but it tackles heavy issues, The Outcast is not your typical Amish story.
I sadly havenÃ¢ÂÂt read The Scarlet Letter, which this book is based upon. I canÃ¢ÂÂt tell you if itÃ¢ÂÂs anything like the original story. But I can tell you that Jolina Petersheim creates a cast of characters and situations that are believable, apart from the dead narrator. The story is a work about how family relationships can make or break a person. Most of the characters in this story are broken. But once they came to God there was restoration, forgiveness, hope, and love that wasnÃ¢ÂÂt there before.
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale and The Christian Manifesto in exchange for my honest review.
October 15, 2013
Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel and Leah have been inseparable since before they were born. As identical twins they do everything together. But their personalities are as opposite as night and day. Leah is meek, quiet and submissive; and Rachel is fiercely independent, stubborn and strong-willed. So when Leah marries a bishop and moves to Tennessee, it is Rachel she calls upon to help her when she becomes ill with her first pregnancy.
Secrets long hidden are coming to light, and Rachel's arrival to her twin sister's home may not be the best thing for either of them. When Rachel turn up pregnant, Leah's husband, Tobias, is more than ready to put Rachel out of their home for her adultery. But while Rachel is not confessing who the father is, her childhood friend, Judah King, desperately wants to make her his wife even though she has a child. When the baby's life is at stake, will the partner in her sin come forward to save little Eli's life?
This novel is in a genre all it's own; Amish, suspense, and re-told classic all rolled into one! Naturally, the story line itself is of great interest to anyone who has read the scarlet letter (or researched it well enough to write school reports on it!) but while I have never read the original tale, this one was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity! I was completely blown away by the tension throughout this book, and the page turning action and conflicts had me at the edge of my seat. It is unique, poignant, and an unforgettable saga of love, betrayal, forgiveness and mercy.
September 13, 2013