The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim
Rachel, a young Mennoite woman, has a secret. The secret is shared by another person whose identity she wishes to never reveal because this secret would destroy all that she knows in life. Rachel has a little boy, Eli, and in the community she lives in- having a child out of wedlock is a sin. Compounding her sin and the disapproval she gets from the community is the fact that she refuses to reveal the father, the co-conspirator in her sin. Rachel knows it’s wrong to keep secrets- but this is one secret she’ll not willingly reveal.
Leah, Rachel’s twin, does everything in her power to keep her husband, Tobias the bishop, from banishing Rachel to a place outside the community. Leah’s sick and needs her sister- wants her sister to be with her. Tobias, though, is an unforgiving man- and he makes sure that Rachel knows she is no longer welcome in his house. Tobias knows about secrets as well- and knows that threatening Rachel about revealing her secret will be the fastest way to get what he wants- which is Rachel far away from his angelic wife, Leah.
Judah, Tobias’s younger brother, has loved Rachel since they were kids. He taught her about reading and shared books with her- they had a made-up language where Judah would confide his desire to experience a different world than Cooper Creek. As the community shuns Rachel for her sin, Judah does the opposite. He wants to marry Rachel, to love and cherish her- to be a father to her baby, Eli. Judah does not care that she refuses to reveal her partner in sin- he knows that life without Rachel would not be the life he wishes to live. Rachel, though, is hesitant. Loving Judah, marrying him is not something she’s ready for. Rachel can’t understand that while love from other me in her life has come with strings- Judah loves her for her- no strings.
When Eli gets sick, Rachel worries that her boy is being punished for her sin. As Eli gets sicker, the secret that Rachel has been trying to hide, to protect her sister- becomes important for Eli’s health. However some secrets are so deep in a community and held by people of upstanding background they will do anything, anything to keep it hidden.
Traveling With T’s Thoughts:
Jolina Petersheim’s debut, The Outcast, is a compelling story. A fallen woman who will bear the brunt of shame of the community to keep her twin from pain. A man, a bishop, with secrets of his own. An unrequited love. Jolina weaves these pieces of the storyline- moving from perspective of each character to create a story that is worth reading and an interesting look in the Amish/Mennoite lifestyle. The plot flows and the reader wants to know what happens next. Recommended for book clubs!