This was a reread for me. I read it quite a few years ago and then saw the movie last year. I wanted to reread it to see just how closely the movie followed the book. And I'm glad that I did.
A story woven through 1800 Appalachian mountain life, it tells of young Cadi, who life is totally consumed with guilt over a tragedy that has befallen her family. The only way she can see out of it is to find the community Sin Eater whom the communty believes eats the sins of the recently departed so that they can go into the afterlife burden free. This is the story of not only Cadi's redemption but that of misconstrued beliefs and trying to cover our own sins. It is a story of heart's crying out for truth, of faith and courage in the face of what should be feared, a story of redemption and forgiveness.
The story grips your emotions as a reader from the beginning and it doesn't let go until the end when all is revealed. It was hard to put this book down even though I'd read it before and saw the movie, so I knew the outcome.
I found it very interesting how Francine Rivers dealt with the parents of young Cadi, and how they each in their own way, were trying to deal with their own grief, while not realizing what they were doing to their own child. It was interesting how one family could have such a grip on a whole communty and how the obediance of one believer can bring truth to deeply rooted beliefs of a whole people. There are very many layers to this story and as I finished the book I could not pick up another for some time until I just sat and thought through all that had occured in the lives of the characters.