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Customer Reviews for The Outcast - eBook
Review 1 for The Outcast - eBook
Beautiful Story that Transcends Genre
Date:November 22, 2013
Jolina Petersheim’s 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 Eli’s 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.
Rachel’s 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.
Petersheim’s 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 child’s 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 Rachel’s timid, secret-keeping twin, Leah – they were all truly wonderful. Often how they appeared on the outside was just a façade to cover what was underneath. By the story’s 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 aren’t the two people that you would think at the story’s 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 Jolina’s writing and am eager to get my hands on her upcoming title The Midwife.
With the sequel to The Outcast, titled The Midwife, coming out next summer, please take time to read this first book that proves to be a very intriguing and captivating tale. While it is subtitled as a modern retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter, I found the contents to be richer than the classic or other versions of the story. There are many special earmarks that made this novel more meaningful to me than anything else like The Scarlet Letter in years. In the classic tale, the woman who committed adultery is forced to wear the letter “A” on the front of her clothing so that everyone will know her sin of adultery. The author takes that letter along with the sin it was meant to proclaim before all and weaves it into a tale that speaks to the reader’s heart. If I were to share with you how she did this, I am afraid it would steal the joy of the journey for the audience which I don’t want to do. I can say it impacted my heart and stole my breath away even after finishing the whole book. Another gem in the writing is that no matter where the story is playing out there are many of us who will forget we are even reading a modern twist to a classic! When the community comes together to hear the church, at times they also hear a sinner confess. Then the person is forgiven and takes their place within the community again. Humanity’s sinful nature is unwrapped tenderly and put forth in this fictional tale, reminding us that no one is sinless. Yet when we are tempted, we always have choices. As I read I through the pages, it was very interesting to see how different characters reacted to either the Bishop’s order or would listen to gossip as if it were the truth, never thinking to actually look for the truth. I thought the way the main protagonist was a twin and how the sin impacted their special bond was truly captivating. The other characters in the tale will bring before the readers different reactions and responses that deepen the story behind the story. A theme I continue to think on is how we can choose to repent or choose to remain prideful and unwilling to acknowledge the sin of pride that resides very deep within the heart. Since it resides so deeply, we need God through the Lord Jesus Christ to change us because we are so unable to change ourselves! Don’t pass up the opportunity to read the novel or give one away during this holiday time.
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.
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-In–law, 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 won’t be able to put the book down.
I was pretty sure I knew who Eli’s father was before he was revealed. But there was a lot that happened that I didn’t see coming. The author has woven the characters’ 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 doesn’t return his affections. Amos is up in heaven watching the entire goings on with Rachel and the others in the story. While I don’t 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 “melon of a stomach” for Rachel’s pregnant belly. When Rachel was watching her friend get mad she was “watching heat creep up the ladder of Ida Mae’s neck”.
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 wouldn’t want my tween reading this. While I couldn’t 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 haven’t read The Scarlet Letter, which this book is based upon. I can’t tell you if it’s 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 wasn’t there before.
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale and The Christian Manifesto in exchange for my honest review.
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.
From the cover of the book this work is being touted as a retelling of The Scarlet Letter with an Amish setting. Just as the original the themes that permeate the story are that of legalism, sin and guilt. Unlike the original Rachel is not made to wear an outward sign marking her as an adulteress but she still becomes an outcast especially when she refuses to name the father of her child.
There are other similarities that I will leave up to you to find so as not to give away too much of the plot line. I do have to say that after the beginning of the novel the storyline quickly deviates from the original. If you are a purist this may upset you but for me I thoroughly enjoyed how Ms. Petersheim made the story her own. I’ll give you a little hint . . . this telling ends much better than the original.
Even though this is her debut novel I found it to be well crafted. The storyline moved along quickly with enough detail to make sense but not get bogged down in the trivial. I enjoyed the complexity of the characters and at the end of the story I was already wondering what happened next. Jolina Petersheim is definitely a name I will be looking for.
I was so excited to read this book after seeing previews and I wasn't disappointed. Leah and Rachel are twin sisters who grew up in an old order Mennonite community in Pennsylvania. Leah married a widower in Tennessee and asked Rachel to come live with her new family and help her after finding herself on bed rest with her first child. A few months later the truth is revealed that Rachel is also expecting her first child but she does not have a husband. Rachel keeps silent to protect the baby's father. The story is told by Rachel and Amos, the dead father of Rachel's brother-in-law.
The Outcast is a modern-day retelling of the great classic, The Scarlett Letter. Rachel and Leah are twin sisters from an old-order Mennonite community. When Leah marries widower, Tobias, she leaves Pennsylvania to move in with her new husband in Tennessee leaving Rachel behind. However, due to Leah’s rough pregnancy, Rachel moves in to help her sister and Tobias’s children until Leah recuperates. While Rachel helps her sister, a scandal erupts in the Mennonite community when unwed Rachel is found to be pregnant. When Rachel refuses to the father nor repent, she is ostracized and eventually thrown out of the community by Tobias, who has become the community’s bishop after his father dies. When Rachel’s employer, Ida Mae finds that Rachel has been kicked out of the community, she takes Rachel and her son into her own home where a friendship blossoms. Meanwhile, Tobias’s little brother, Judah, has been in love with Rachel since childhood. Though he is hurt by Rachel’s betrayal, his love for her is too strong to let her go. He asks her to marry him but when she turns him down, he leaves town feeling crushed. As the months pass, Rachel notices something not quite right with her son, Eli and she takes him to the doctor, where he is diagnosed with cancer. With the diagnosis, Rachel and Ida Mae struggle with the effects of the chemo that young Eli must go through to cure him. However, when the chemo fails, the only hope that Eli has of survival is a bone marrow transplant from a sibling. Will Rachel confess who Eli’s father is? Will Judah return to stand by Rachel’s side to help fight for Eli? Will a bone marrow donor be found for Eli before it is too late? In order to find out the answers, you will have to read the book.
This book is for mature readers, as was the classic The Scarlet Letter. They both deal with adultery, shame, and scandal. There is much tragedy in this story, but the repentance, forgiveness and redemption are well portrayed. I felt that the viewpoint of a deceased person was an interesting diversion from the usual kind of narrative voice. Somehow, the author even made it believable. Be ready for several narrative viewpoints. There are twists to the plot but a lot of sadness. There was strength of character, and a lot of love, as well. I did agree that sometimes repentance and redemption can be miraculous, and I was hoping for it. The characters were mostly well developed, except we know almost nothing about Tobias’ older children. I had to concentrate to remember who they were when mentioned. It did not detract from the story, though, as they were minor characters. This book is more for the life lessons than for entertainment but very touching and well presented.
This is a sobering book. There is a distinct absence of light-hearted moments but it is a gripping, often dark tale that I found compelling to read. The author draws on her family Mennonite history to lend real authenticity to a gritty story about condemnation and ultimately forgiveness. It was hard to read at times because I'd become so infuriated over the injustice of it all! I'd have to give way to a bout of ranting before I could continue on with the story.
This is Petersheim's debut novel and I was really struck by her maverick writing style. Chapters alternate between Rachel's first person point of view and the omnipotent point of view from a recently deceased bishop who narrates the scenes dealing with all the other characters. It was a bit jarring at first and I found it difficult to adjust to this particular literary rhythm.
Definitely a different look at the popular Mennonite/Amish genre and certainly a read I won't soon forget.
The front cover of the book calls it “a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter.” This is a very apt description of the story that Jolina has written. She has crafted a very intricate tale of a young woman, Rachel Stoltzfus, whose sin is visible for all to see. The deep complexities come about through the secrets that are kept hidden. How far should someone go in keeping secrets to protect another person that they love?
The characters are so well developed that it was very easy to feel their pain and anguish throughout the story. At the same time there were some others so caught up in protecting themselves that it was very easy to dislike them.
She does a marvelous job of showing how two people’s sin affect everyone that they are in relationship with. Not only those that are supporting and encouraging Rachel, but also those that are actively judging her.
Jolina Petersheim showed that she truly has a marvelous talent to paint a full picture. I’m looking forward to reading anything else that she writes.
I won a free copy of this book through a Goodreads.com First Reads giveaway.
This incredible Mennonite story is told in a unique way through the eyes of various characters whose names, including the dead Amos, are put at the top of each chapter. Rachel's feeling of embarrassment is obvious at the graveside funeral of Mennonite Bishop Amos as she jiggles her bastard son to keep him quiet. Judah, Amos' youngest son who loves her, offers to marry her, but she refuses. When Tobias becomes the new Bishop, life is much harder. He forces Rachel to leave the community or he will tell his wife, her sister Leah, who the father of her baby is. Knowing this would possibly kill Leah, Rachel calls for Ida May's taxi. Ida May finds she has virtually no money and offers to put her up in exchange for her work. Rachel's work at the shop brings so many satisfied customers that she continues there. What causes a major disruption that will ultimately reveal all the secrets? What was especially sad about this? How does Ida May help? What does Rachel try first? What does Leah do that solves the problem? What terrible thing did Tobias do that caused him to run away? What does Tobias learn? How can he change? Why do Leah and Tobias leave the area? This is a must read book that will help you understand Mennonite culture as well!!!
When I first picked up this book to read, my first thought was, "Ok, this book will be okay." Wow! Was I wrong! This book was excellent! The first night I started reading it, I read the first 100 pages. I didn't want to put it down! I am very impressed with Jolina Petersheim's writing. This book is written in 1st person point of view with 2 different characters telling their account. I love books written from 1st person point of view.
This book is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter. Rachel is a young Mennonite girl who finds herself pregnant. She is made the outcast of the community. No one knows who the father is as she keeps her secret until the very end of the book! I felt like I was living in her shoes throughout the whole book. Very engrossing!
I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys inspirational fiction.
The Outcast is a stand-alone novel and a fantastic debut by Jolina Petersheim. Set in the Old Order Mennonite community of Copper Creek, Tennessee, it is described as an inspirational retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter. This unusual and compelling novel stands out on many levels and is one that I can highly recommend.
The Outcast is an extremely strong novel with mature writing, complex characterization and storytelling from a first-time author. Although set in a Mennonite community, it is in a class all by itself when it comes to the Amish/Mennonite genre. Themes of legalism vs. forgiveness, dysfunctional father/daughter relationships, and holistic remedies vs. modern-day medicine are just a few elements in this story that I found emotionally moving and riveting.
"My face burns with the heat of a hundred stares." With this opening sentence, Jolina introduces Rachel and draws the reader into a story of betrayal, pride, hypocrisy - as well as repentance and forgiveness. Rachel's illegitimate pregnancy placed her amid those few who remained in the church while living outside its doctrinal parameters, and she exhibits great strength of character in the face of public scorn.
The Outcast has a strong, complex ensemble cast: Leah, Rachel's twin sister who was selfless to her core . . . loveable Ida Mae, who befriended Rachel . . . Judah, Rachel's childhood friend and soul mate . . . Norman Troyer, a renowned holistic doctor who believes in the power of modern-day medicine . . . Tobias King, a bishop "so consumed with saving his reputation, he is in the process of losing his soul."
The story is unusually narrated by two voices: Rachel and that of deceased bishop, Amos King, father of Tobias and Judah. The voice of Amos makes me think of heaven's great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1. Amos realizes that he allowed Tobias to hide his sin and longs to help. "If I could somehow communicate to him that repentance is much more important than pride, and to her that forgiveness will break chains while anger will only keep her in bondage." Amos's voice added greatly to the story and I loved the depth that his perspective brought.
Jolina uses the vehicle of a child's illness very effectively to bring hidden actions into the light, which leads to a satisfying, but realistic, conclusion. I hesitate to use the almost overused reviewer phrase that "I found it hard to put this book down," but that is certainly true in this case. The Outcast goes on my list of favorites, and I am looking forward to Jolina's next book, The Midwife.
The Outcast is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, and I highly recommend it, not only to fans of Amish/Mennonite stories, but to all readers.
This book was provided by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
Rachel is a single mother to a newborn son, something that is frowned upon in her Old Order Mennonite community. She refuses to name the father, and the bishop (her brother-in-law) asks her to leave the community. She is not the only person in the town with secrets, many of which are revealed in the story.
I thought this was a good book and an interesting retelling of The Scarlet Letter. The story is told from the viewpoint of two people- Rachel and the recently deceased Amos. I'm looking forward to the author's next book.
I was drawn to this book by the cover and the title which intrigued me. After reading the blurb on the back I was hooked. And it was well worth the price and time to read it. If you miss this book you will be missing a real blessing. I am looking forward to Ms. Petersheim's next book.
This book caught and held my interest from the first page, until the last . I am greatly looking forward to her next book. I would certainly recommend this book to my family, friends, and customers at CBD !
Subtitling this as a modern The Scarlet Letter sells this entertaining and fresh read short. Doing so should be interpreted as homage paid to the inspiration offered by Hawthorne's classic and an attempt to remove this book from the stigmas of the typical "Amish Romance" genre, a place where this book could be categorized, but does not truly belong. While retaining identifiable plot points from The Scarlet Letter, the majority of this novel is entirely new, has many additional subplots and characters which the original did not, and the ending deviates largely.
Rachel is an identical twin, and when her recently married sister Leah asks for her help during a difficult pregnancy, Rachel moves away from home for the first time and in with the newlyweds. A few weeks later, Rachel is pregnant and refuses to identify the father of her child.
After the sisters give birth, the situation intensifies. Leah struggles to recover from childbirth, and remains bedridden. Rachel must care for both infants, her sister's step-children, and the house in addition to her sick sister. Meanwhile, Leah's husband Tobias continues to receive pressure from the community to expel Rachel from his home, and only Leah's intercession keeps Rachel from becoming homeless. But then Leah becomes so ill she is admitted to the hospital, and Tobias forces Rachel to leave without Leah's knowledge or consent.
Homeless, without income or friend and with a six-month old baby, Rachel finds herself searching for help in unexpected places–including the home of the woman who owns and runs Ida Mae's Amish Country Store. The two form an unlikely bond despite pasts which continue to threaten them both.
Shortly after moving in with Ida Mae, Rachel is visited by her childhood sweetheart, Tobias' younger brother Judah. They grew up together, learned to read stolen books together, spent afternoons playing hide-&-seek together, and Rachel always hoped she'd marry him someday. Judah has decided to leave the church (partly–if not entirely–due to Rachel's treatment), and wants to marry Rachel and take her with him. Rachel refuses, Judah leaves, and a short while later, Rachel discovers that her son has cancer.
The story continues to grow more complicated as Rachel's secret grows more vulnerable. But with her son's life hanging in the balance, the lengths to which Rachel won't grow become shorter and shorter.
I expected to be underwhelmed by this book. I am thoroughly familiar with Hawthorne's work, and would have found a direct modernization predictable. Also, I am not a fan of fiction centered around Amish/Old order Mennonite communities. In my childhood, many of my friends were Mennonite and strongly connected to the Amish community in our area. I grew up very familiar with their culture and popular Mennonite authors (similar to the author's experience, actually), and find most of the outside fiction concerning them absurd if not inflammatory. This book avoids some of my least favorite stereotypes, and manages to come across believable. Finally, I expected a writing style which lacked the polish and finesse I look for in my favorite books. I was pleasantly surprised. This may be her first book, but Petersheim quietly caught my attention–despite my initial bias–with her deft descriptions and subtle references: naming the twin sisters Rachel and Leah is only the first of many.
There were also a few things which caught me by surprise. First, Petersheim keeps the supernatural element by alternating first and third person narration. Second, the romantic scenes were well handled despite Christian fiction's typical squeamishness about the birds and the bees. They were far from graphic, not overemotional or over-dramatic, managed to avoid cliches, and still managed to convey the story in a way which held my interest. Third, given her deviations from Hawthorne, I was unsure as to how the novel would end. But when it did end, the author had the courage to eschew a tidy ending with every plot line neatly tied up and did not shy away dealing with the mess her characters' actions created.
Just as in the plot, many themes stay true to Hawthorne, but The Outcast also works to emphasize some "modern" themes in the plot. There is sin, guilt, forgiveness, legalism, justice, but also references to different views on technology, language, medicine, parental rights, spousal rights, spousal abuse, and business ethics. While these additions do not make this novel have more depth/breadth than The Scarlet Letter, the do the effective work of updating the story into the 21st century.
I sincerely enjoyed this book. I will be adding it to my private library.
Rachel Stoltzfus finds herself single and pregnant making her the talk of her Old Order Mennonite community. She is living with her twin sister Leah and her husband Tobias King, she was helping when Leah had a problem pregnancy and continues to live there as her dad won't let her come home to live since she is an outcast.
She refuses to disclose the father of the baby and soon finds herself leaving her sisters house and living with Ida Mae Speck who has left her Old Order Mennonite community a few years ago. Ida Mae is a great support for Rachel and when Rachel's son Eli gets sick, she is there at every turn, even calling her family when she thinks Rachel needs them.
I really enjoyed this book and read it rather quickly, for me anyway, and had to use a few tissues in the end. Have you ever had a sibling rivalry, not one where you just don't get along, but privately in your mind? There is more than one sibling rivalry going on in this story, in more than one family, internal feelings, but one sibling doesn't know the other sibling has similar feelings. I think there have been times when I was upset with a sibling and not voiced it but these feelings, rivalry's, have been going on most of their lives.
The story is written from the view of two people, Rachel Stoltzfus and Amos King, Tobias's father, he is being buried as the story begins. The first chapter was a little confusing to me but I was soon involved and kept things pretty straight. This is not your typical Amish story therefore it's a little more interesting because you don't hear about these things going on in the Amish, or Mennonite, community too often but it makes you realize they do have things happen in their families just like us "English" people do.
This is the first book I read that Jolina has written, I think it may be her only book so far, and I am looking forward to some more. You might want to go find a copy and read it, it's quite good!