Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review of "the Outcast" by Jolina Petersheim

"the Outcast" is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter, set in an Old Order Mennonite community.

Rachel Stoltzfus and her twin sister Leah are extremely close yet possess very different personalities; Leah is quieter and more reserved - Rachel, fiery.  In their late teens, Leah moves away to marry widower Tobias King, 12 years her senior.  Tobias has recently become the Bishop of the community following the sudden passing of his father, Amos.  Although they hadn't lived nearby in years, Rachel and Leah actually grew up around the King family (including Tobias' much younger brother, Judah, who has loved Rachel practically forever.)

Parts of the book are told from Rachel's perspective, and others, from Amos' - certainly a concept done before, but rarely done so well as here.  The turns of phrase, pacing, revealing of the father of Rachel's baby, several health related twists....all masterfully written.  Discovering that this is Jolina Petersheim's first novel was very surprising.

I have read lots and lots of "Amish fiction".  Many of those books I enjoyed, and then haven't thought about their characters or storyline much - if ever.  This book is going to stay with me for a long time; one of the best compliments I can give.

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