Book Review of The Outsider

The Outsider
The Outsider
Author: Penelope Williamson
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover
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One word is all that is necessary to describe this book: unique. It is the story of a Plain People (Amish) community; Rachel Yoder is a young, widowed woman taking care of her son and her sheep farm. Life changes for Rachel and Benjo when an outsider, Johnny Cain, stumbles onto her land. "The Outsider" is almost dead and is obviously a killer of men.

This deeply religious woman takes Cain in and brings him back to health. However, she is afraid of the gunman, although she is also fascinated. Because she is a perceptive woman (although she is not a healer, as her grandmother is), she quickly comes to understand that Cain thinks he is doomed for his sins.

This author did a wonderful job of slowly opening Cain's heart and showing the goodness in Cain to Rachel. However, this romance seems impossible; Cain won't let go of his gun and Rachel is a deeply religious woman. She also has a man eager to marry her within the Plain People community (Noah Weaver). Unfortunately for him, Noah has always wanted to marry Rachel (he lost out years before to Rachel's husband, Ben). Noah represents Rachel's strict religion he judges her and criticizes her for her own good.'

Ben, through his years of marriage to Rachel, showed her that life could have its light-hearted moments within the strict bounds of their religion. If Rachel marries Noah, she knows that life will become more rigid. Cain, as sinful as he has been, helps her laugh again.

The reader learns that Johnny Cain is not unschooled in the Bible; with his quotes of appropriate verses, we know that he understands how far he has fallen. Life has taught him not to believe in anything; but he tells Rachel that he believes in her.

The difficult life that the Plain People live is shared with the reader through vivid descriptions of life on a sheep ranch and the rare times they take for enjoyment. The author weaves a wonderful tale between Benjo, Rachel and Johnny Cain.

Penelope Williamson does not sugar-coat the difficult decisions Rachel makes. She shows the gentle natures of the Plain People but she also shows how severely they punish anyone willing to defy their religious principles.