Book Review ~ The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim

Contemporary Fiction/Mennonite

About the book:

Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel Stoltzfus is a strong-willed single woman, content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of the religious sect as she is shunned by those she loves most. She is eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop.

But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.

My thoughts:

From the cover of the book this work is being touted as a retelling of The Scarlet Letter with a Mennonite 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.

Connect with the author:


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for writing such a great book! I know our readers are really going to enjoy it. Such an interesting twist to a classic piece of literature.

      Looking forward to your next book!


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