The Outsider (1996)

By Penelope Williamson

"All through the years, Rachel Yoder had never been afraid -- for the creed of the Plain People had been her strength. Then the day came when lawless men killed Rachel's husband in an act of blind greed. Now, in this long hour of fear, the outsider walks across her meadow and into her life...

"His name is Johnny Cain. He is bloody, near death, and packing two pistols and a knife. A man hardened by a violent past, Cain had never known someone like Rachel -- a woman who offers him a chance to heal more than his physical wounds...

"Cain's lazy smile and teasing ways steal her heart and confound her soul. Soon Rachel is forced to choose between all she holds dear -- her faith, her family, perhaps her very salvation... and the mane they call the outsider."

I already wrote about why I became enthralled with this book. My enthrallment never wavered, impressed and mesmerized by Williamson's use of language. Resembling a book by someone like Helen Dunmore, however, the language became my reason for taking so darn long in reaching the last page. I lingered. I stalled, because the whole ordeal of reading these characters took such patience and courage.

Much like the best singers, the ones who know the value of restraint and control in addition to their natural vocal talents, Williamson parses the emotion in tiny, tiny measures. This is not melodrama. This is not mere genre fiction. This is one for my keeper shelf, even if it proves too wrenching and deep for me to read again. I will simply admire it in my bookcase, happy to know such a book exists.

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