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.
This is a sobering book. There is a distinct absence of light-hearted moments but it is a gripping, often dark tale that I found compelling to read. The author draws on her family Mennonite history to lend real authenticity to a gritty story about condemnation and ultimately forgiveness. It was hard to read at times because I'd become so infuriated over the injustice of it all! I'd have to give way to a bout of ranting before I could continue on with the story.
This is Petersheim's debut novel and I was really struck by her maverick writing style. Chapters alternate between Rachel's first person point of view and the omnipotent point of view from a recently deceased bishop who narrates the scenes dealing with all the other characters. It was a bit jarring at first and I found it difficult to adjust to this particular literary rhythm.
Definitely a different look at the popular Mennonite/Amish genre and certainly a read I won't soon forget.
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