The Outsider is a beautiful historical novel - by Kentuckian Ann Gabhart - set in the 1800's in a Shaker community - Pleasant Hill - located near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Just this alone made me want to read this novel. I live less than 10 miles from the restored Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and have spent many hours roaming the surrounding hillsides.
In this book, the main character is a young Shaker woman - Gabrielle - who is completely happy living with her Shaker brothers and sisters , living the life of purity and hardwork. That is until an outsider - Dr. Brice Scott - intrudes on their lives and makes his way into her thoughts, and eventually her heart. The Shaker culture and society are so realistic I felt like I was there, like I knew these people. Living so near a restored Shaker village, I have grown up reading and researching the Shaker culture, so this book is very true to the life these religious people lead.
Because the entire story doesn't happen just on the grounds of the Shaker village, readers are given a realistic view of war during this time and historical medical information, in addition to the treatment of strangers to the Shaker village. There are also other glimpses into this disciplined lifestyle, from the demanding hard work to the fanatical religious servies.
This book was a fascinating read and Mrs. Gabhart's flowing prose seemed to leap off the pages and jump straight into your heart. Gabrielle's transformation from the quiet, shy girl into the beautiful young woman is presented with sobering details and fleeting views from the past.
I recommend this book, not only as a work of historical fiction surrounding the lives of the Shakers, but as a delightful work of pure unadultered literature. The Outsider is a worthy find among the multitude of fiction and genre books being released today.