(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Like all the folks who live in her isolated mountain community, 10-year-old Cadi Forbes is a descendant of a hearty band of pilgrims who came to Appalachia from the wilds of Scotland and Wales. Along with their heavy brogues, these pioneers brought with them legends, myths and Old World customs. Some of which still endure. The Sin Eater, for instance. Cadi knows all about the mysterious figure who's summoned down from the hills when someone dies. His duty—which he will perform as long as he lives—is to take upon himself the sins of the dead so that they can ascend to heaven unburdened. No one dares look the Sin Eater in the face, nor do they seek him out. The man is sentenced, because of his own misdeeds, to a life of banishment and solitude, welcomed among the villagers only when he is needed. And only with extreme caution.
Cadi needs absolution from the sin that is eating her up inside, the evil that makes even her mother turn away in shame. So pained by her affliction is Cadi that she's willing to do the unthinkable. She knows hunting down the Sin Eater will bring punishment from her parents as well as a curse on her family. But she can't stop herself. Cadi can't wait until she's dead to get forgiveness—she needs it now.
As Cadi defies the orders of her family and village leaders in dogged pursuit of her goal, she discovers some shocking truths—not just about the Sin Eater, but also about her community and the secrets it keeps in the name of tradition. Can Cadi convince the others of what she now knows? Will she ever get absolution for her sins? Her journey of self-discovery will lead her down paths she never could have expected to follow ...
When I picked up The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers, I had no idea it was a Christian novel. In retrospect, the title probably should have given it away, if not the fact that it's published by Tyndale. Somehow I missed these clues. Not that I have anything against Christian/religious fiction, mind you. I don't. At least not if its lessons are taught with grace and subtlety through complex characters doing interesting things against vivid backgrounds. The Last Sin Eater's Appalachian setting intrigued me from the start, as did its sympathetic story people. All the conflict between Cadi, her family, and the village folk reeled me in as well. In fact, I quite enjoyed the first half of the novel. Then, it got preachy. In an annoying, very heavy-handed way. It became too much, even for me —and I spend at least three hours a week in church! While I appreciated what the story had to say about the importance of repentance/forgiveness, letting Christ into our lives, and moving beyond the sins of the past, I didn't care for the novel's too-obvious sermonizing. In the end, then, The Last Sin Eater was just an okay read for me.
(Readalikes: Um, I can't think of anything. Can you?)
If this were a movie (and, apparently, it is), it would be rated:
for violence, sexual innuendo and references to rape, adultery, and abuse
To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of The Last Sin Eater with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.