The Outcast Reviewed By Conny Crisalli of
Conny Withay

Reviewer Conny Withay:Operating her own business in office management since 1991, Conny is an avid reader and volunteers with the elderly playing her designed The Write Word Game. A cum laude graduate with a degree in art living in the Pacific Northwest, she is married with two sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren.

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By Conny Withay
Published on April 1, 2013

Author: Jolina Petersheim
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-7934-0

Author: Jolina Petersheim
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-7934-0

In her debut novel, The Outcast, Jolina Petersheim’s character Rachel cries out to God, “I know I have already asked your forgiveness for my adultery, but I need to know that you really forgive. That you are not punishing my child for the sins I have committed.”

At three hundred and seventy-three pages, this paperback book is touted as a modern retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter from the perspective of current-day Amish / Mennonite living. With no profanity but situations about adultery that produces a child out of wedlock, the story is targeted toward mature Christian young adult or female readers. This reader wishes all pronouns related to Deity were capitalized for reverence.

Nineteen year old independent Rachel becomes pregnant in the Mennonite Copper Creek community in Tennessee but adamantly refuses to reveal the father’s identity as she is not married. Her twin sister, Leah, becomes pregnant months later by her husband, the arrogant, prideful Tobias who wedded her to take care of his four children when their mother died five years ago. Now that his father, Amos, has recently passed away, Tobias has been chosen as bishop in the community and, to Leah’s dismay, casts Rachel out due to her premarital pregnancy. Tobias’s young brother, Judah, has always loved Rachel and has told her but due to the recent birth of her son, he questions her decisions and responsibilities when she becomes more and more Englisch.

Upon Rachel’s excommunication, she befriends Ida Mae, a rough-talking, calloused woman with her own heart-breaking past who gives her a job with room and board at her supposedly Amish country store to make ends meet. Angered by his brother’s insistence that Rachel leave their sect, Judah follows Rachel, only to be rejected by her love so he leaves the state to search for solace. It is only when Rachel’s infant child has life-threatening medical issues that several lives intersect to uncover families’ hidden truths that endanger the calm, serene life on a rural Mennonite farm and beyond.

Separated by bold headings, the tome is uniquely written from the viewpoints of Rachel and the deceased Amos who has the ability to witness his sons’ choices, errors and thoughts as each person deals with, confesses, accepts and forgives his or her own past sins. Both versions overlap as the reader is caught up in the secrets, lies and broken relationships that need to be told, forgiven and mended.

Although predicable from the start, Petersheim writes emotionally and lovingly about her characters’ lives, lapses and longings as she blends old-fashioned, at times legalistic upbringings with current day society’s morals by learning to accept God’s unconditional love and forgiveness of one’s past mistakes.

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