THE OUTCAST is an emotional, modern retelling of THE SCARLET LETTER. Rachel Stoltzfus, an unwed mother of an infant son, who has not repented or revealed the father's identity, faces such strong alienation from the Old Order Mennonite Community of Copper Creek, Tenn. that she feels forced to leave. When her brother-in-law Tobias becomes bishop after his father's death, Rachel knows she can not stay one day longer feeling his condemnation. When Tobias's brother Judah, who has loved Rachel since childhood, offers to leave with her and marry her, Rachel cannot accept. She knows she could never start a life with him without revealing her past and she cannot do that without hurting the person she loves most beside her son, her twin sister.
Her new life, alone without family, is made slightly easier by Ida Mae, the eccentric shopkeeper who has taken Rachel in. Both have secrets that they aren't willing to share, but both are willing to accept the other and to love little Eli. When Eli becomes ill, Rachel turns back to her family, but it is Ida Mae who is the most comforting and dependable through the dark days.
A copy of THE OUTCAST has been sitting on my to-read pile for months, ever since I won a copy of this and Jolina Petersheim's other book THE MIDWIFE through Petersheim's blog. I don't read a steady diet of Amish/Mennonite fiction so I just never picked up either book. Finally, I did, and I
am glad that I did. Petersheim writes with an authenticity, realism and depth that seems to be missing in other Plain fiction I've read. Although it becomes quickly apparent who Eli's father is, the motivation behind the destructive sin takes longer to reveal. Clearly everyone (except the young children and maybe Judah) in this book has secrets and flaws they struggle to keep hidden behind their beards and prayer caps. Petersheim shows that the Plain life is not a perfect one. Only truth and forgiveness can save Rachel and her family and bring them hope.
At the time Jolina Petersheim wrote THE OUTCAST she lived in Tennessee. Since then she and her husband have moved to the Driftless area of Southwest Wisconsin. Being a Wisconsinite myself, I now consider her a Wisconsin author. I am hoping her future writings will reflect the move to Wisconsin and their new life here. You can check out her blog http://www.jolinapetersheim.com/blog/