The Last Sin Eater is a great thought provoking book that I enjoyed reading. It does start off a bit slow and I almost set it down after a while but then the story really gets going full of intrigue and suspense. It has great discussion questions at the back which would be ideal conversation starters for a book club.
The book is set in the mountains and narrated by Cadi Forbes. In the initial chapter Cadi’s grandmother dies and this brings to light the burial ritual that involves the Sin Eater. The Sin Eater comes to the graveyard before the burial and eats a meal of bread and wine set out by the family and says a few words. The belief was that this took away the sins of the departed, thus giving them rest in the afterlife.
Cadi is a young girl filled with guilt as a result of events later revealed in the book that caused the breakdown of her relationship with her mother. She begins a quest to find the Sin Eater so he can take away her sins before she dies, so she can live happily. She is joined by Fagan Kai of the Kai family who have somehow had their patriarch as an influential figure and leader of sorts in the community. Elda Kendric, now the oldest woman alive reveals snippets of information that shed more light on how the Sin Eater came to be and where he lives now (away from the rest of the community). Cadi receives frequent guidance and encouragement from her mysterious friend Lilybet, who is never seen by anyone else.
Their belief in the Sin Eater is challenged by Cadi’s discovery that the ritual does not make her feel better and the coming of The Stranger who bears the news of the gospel. There is fear as The Kai forbids anyone from speaking to The Stranger. As the story progresses there is a revelation of the secrets long hidden. A lot of the revelations showed how many of the original settlers feared one man so much that they did not dare to speak up against his orders. It got me thinking how standing up for the truth today can save much hurt and pain in the future.
The major themes that stood out to me were:
- Traditions: their gripping effects on people.
- Courage: the two young ones sought out the Sin Eater and listened to the gospel and got baptised by The Stranger, defying The Kai’s orders and threats. Daring to stand up for the truth and sharing the gospel.
- Salvation: Freedom from guilt and sins.
- Rebirth: A second chance in life for The Sin Eater after his salvation.
This book is highly recommended.