The New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love and A Voice in the Wind pens a captivating tale of suffering, seeking, and redemption set in Appalachia in the 1850s.
In the misty peaks and valleys of Appalachia roams the sin eater―a myth as much as a man, burdened with absolving the sins of villagers passing from this life to the next. But when a young girl uncovers the dark secret behind the tradition, she vows to show her village the truth.
All that matters for young Cadi Forbes is finding the one man who can set her free from the sin that plagues her, the sin that has stolen her mother’s love from her and made Cadi wish she could flee life and its terrible injustice. But Cadi doesn’t know that the sin eater is seeking as well. Before their journeys are over, Cadi and the sin eater must face themselves, each other, and the One who will demand everything from them in exchange for the answers they seek.
This book doesn’t shy away from the hard. Physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Shame. Isolation. Murder. Grief and loss. It dives into it all and mostly keeps its head above water (one instance of the opposite stood out to me and I’ll detail it in Negatives). This would be why it made my Best Reads of 2021 list.
I honestly liked Fagan more than Cadi. That boy suffered. He lost the approval of his dad, which is painful enough. But then the fact that his dad beat him and tried to kill him on top of that? Fagan just seemed to sacrifice more than Cadi did for the sake of the story goal, and I wish he’d gotten more page time.
But that’s not to say I didn’t like Cadi! She has a great narration voice and her pain was beautifully, heartbreakingly scrolled across each page. I liked that this book acknowledged that hard and horrible things happen to young people and that they feel the pain just as much as an adult would. And that they are as capable of standing up for a truth they believe in as anyone else.
The arc of how God changed a broken village from something ugly and twisted into something beautiful certainly shines. And even though the novel isn’t all that fast-paced, it kept me engaged to the very last page.
The conclusion with Cadi’s mother didn’t quite work for me. This woman has horrifically abused Cadi for years, to the point that this ten-year-old wished she was dead. And at the end, she was just like, “Oh, I never meant it, I always loved you.” That’s not how it works. In a situation of abuse (which I have researched for a story of my own), there needs to be a gradual building of trust back. It is often not healthy to return to an abuser until a very long time afterward, if at all. A simple apology can’t just erase years of abuse.
The book also makes use of excessively long passages of Scripture in the narrative. Most of the time this is done very well and it helps push the narrative forward. I’m definitely not against putting Bible verses in a story, please don’t hear me saying that. But when it literally spans four pages and the story comes to a complete stand still for someone to quote Scripture for those four pages? That’s a bit much. A Christian book does need to include explicit truths about Jesus. But if it’s going to go anywhere, it needs to be a great story first. If I randomly put four pages of quotes from another book in my novel, and the quotes didn't affect the scene at all, an editor would remove it immediately.
While The Last Sin Eater is marketed as the Gospel to those who wouldn’t hear it another way, it seems to be targeting already converted audiences to remind them of the Gospel. (Someone who isn’t interested in the Gospel isn’t going to read four pages of Scripture inserted into the narrative.) Which is absolutely fine! We need books like that. But the marketing was a little deceptive.
Another aside—I don’t remember reading in the story anywhere what year it was or where they were living. A little disorienting at first.
The Last Sin Eater has a bump or bruise or two along the way. But overall, this is a story that isn’t afraid to acknowledge the harsh realities of broken humans—and watch them grow past them.
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Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!