The Outcast: A Modern Retelling of The Scarlet Letter by Jolina Petersheim
Pub: Jun 2013
2.5 of 5 stars
Pregnant outside of wedlock, Rachel is shunned from her close-knit Old Order Mennonite community, and refuses to tell anyone who the father is, even her twin sister.
I almost wish that I could say yes to marriage with Judah King as easily as my sister had said yes to his brother, Tobias. I wish that I could go back and make my choices again. But different choices would mean this accidental child would not be in my arms, and I would not trade him for ten lifetimes of marital ease.
For those who enjoy Amish/Mennonite novels, who love a good biblical allusion, and who like books about the power of forgiveness and hope, this book is for you.
I can’t say, though, that this was a book for me. Many of the Amish/Old Mennonite/modern Mennonite comparisons were completely lost on me, and I thought you could hardly call this a “modern” retelling when the main characters go out of their way to live outside the modern world.
Stylistically, I had a hard time with the dual perspectives in this book. Some chapters are told from Rachel’s point-of-view, but others are told from the somehow-omniscient viewpoint of her deceased father-in-law. It’s all written in present tense, except for a few ‘flashbacks’ of sorts when characters are reminiscing about the past. The constant point of view changes broke up the flow of the story for me.
Finally, some of the relationships bothered me. Rachel blames her affair on her father’s lack of love towards her. The twinship of Rachel and Leah is intensified to the point where they are each the most important person in the other’s life (even over spouses or children). The child’s father (who is obvious from page two, though the author skirts around the fact for 2/3 of the book) seems completely incapable of any kind of love; and Rachel’s other love interest plays such a minor role that you find yourself wondering at the end if she is ‘settling’ for him.
Overall: Not what I had been hoping for, but probably a fine read for fans of the Amish/Mennonite subgenre.