When Rachel Stoltzfus, an unmarried Mennonite woman, refuses to repent of her sins, which would include naming the father of her child, she finds herself all but shunned by her sister’s community and unable to return to her own. When her sister’s husband blackmails her into leaving the community entirely, she fears she and her son are entirely alone. Thankfully, her Englisch driver recognizes her plight and invites her to stay with her for a time. Rachel plans to begin a new life, yet is drawn back in touch with the Mennonite community through unexpected ties to her past which threaten to expose not only Rachel’s secrets, but so many more.
The cover describes this story as a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter. There certainly are many similarities, but it is unique, too. I loved that the sisters are named Rachel and Leah and that their descriptions, personalities, and fates are similar, yet unique, to those of the Rachel and Leah from the Bible's book of Genesis. I also found the use of narrators interesting. The story’s telling goes back and forth from Rachel telling it from her point of view to Amos telling what he sees from his place in Heaven. Amos is Rachel’s sister’s father-in-law, whose funeral we attend in Chapter One.
The Outcast is Jolina Petersheim’s first novel, born from her Mennonite heritage. I’ll look forward to reading more by this new author. Tyndale House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.