The Last Sin Eater

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The Last Sin Eater
Author Francine Rivers
Country United States
Language English
Genre Christian novel
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date
1998
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 336 pp

The Last Sin Eater is a 1998 Christian book by the American author Francine Rivers. It deals with the themes of sin, guilt and forgiveness, and tells about the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Plot summary[edit]

The Last Sin Eater revolves around Cadi Forbes, ten-year-old girl who lives in a settlement community of Welsh Americans in the mid-1850s. Cadi carries a heavy burden of guilt and grief because of something that happened the year before. At the beginning of the novel, Cadi's grandmother Gorawen has just died. At her funeral, the village's Sin Eater comes and Cadi does the "forbidden" and makes eye contact with him. The next day, Cadi goes to the river, thinking about how to get rid of the sins that she carries. At that time, a little girl named Lilybet appears, and after talking with her, Cadi decides to visit the Sin Eater in the hopes that he can take her sins from her. Cadi is the only one who can see or hear Lilybet, and her parents and others begin to believe that she is "keeping company with taints" and that the girl is a demon. Cadi seeks out the Sin Eater by talking first to Elda Kendric who is the oldest person in the village.

During all of this, a man of God comes to share the word of God, but camps outside the village. Brogan Kai, the self-proclaimed village leader tells all of the villagers not to go near the man because of what the man speaks of. Brogan's son Fagan and Cadi go anyway. They are intrigued by the word of God, but do not approach the man out of fear. Cadi becomes even more determined to find the Sin Eater, believing she cannot go before the man of God with her sins. Cadi eventually finds the Sin Eater and convinces him to try to take away her sins if she promises to see the man of God and tell the Sin Eater what he says. The Sin Eater performs the ceremony, but nothing happens and no sins are removed. Eventually, it is revealed that the year before, Cadi's little sister drowned after following Cadi to the river and slipping on the log bridge. Cadi is overwhelmed with guilt because of this, and it is tearing her family apart. Cadi thinks that everyone blames her, and sees her mother's distant and withdrawn behavior as proof that her mother hates her. In one scene, Cadi overhears her parents talking and her mother says "it shouldn't have been Elen", implying that she wishes it was Cadi who had drowned.

Despite the danger of being caught, Cadi goes back to talk to the man of God because of her promise to the Sin Eater. After listening to him for a time, she opens up to him, pouring out her guilt, and through his guidance comes to accept Christ and is baptized. Cadi shares her newfound faith with Miz Elda, Fagan notices the difference in her and, driven by his own motives to somehow unburden himself from the sins of his father, visits the man of God with Cadi the next night. Through the man's moving testimony, Fagan, as well, comes to accept Christ. The two children return night after night to learn more from the man, and begin to share what they know with the people around them. Tragedy strikes in the form of Brogan Kai, who kills the man of God, then turns his fury onto his son, Fagan, seriously injuring him. Cadi and Fagan escape, eventually, to Dead Man's Mountain, where the Sin Eater Lives. There, in the safety of his cave, Fagan and Cadi reveal the word of God to the Sin Eater, who is finally relieved of his burden of carrying the sins of so many others. While there, Cadi discovers cave paintings that, once explained by Miz Elda, finally bring to light the dark past of the mountain community and explain the origins of the Sin Eater. In the end, Brogan, Fagan, and the Sin Eater have a showdown in front of the entire village at Elda Kendric's house. Cadi and Fagan, with help from Miz Elda and Iona Kai, reveal the truth to the villagers, and the Sin Eater, named Sim, is free to live as a normal man. During the confrontation, the Kai is injured, and the villagers come to realize he has no power over them other than what they give him. Several come to accept Christ that day, with others following later. Cadi's mother forgives her, saying she never blamed Cadi for Elen's death, but rather herself. She reveals that it was in fact herself she wishes had died in Elen's place, as she had sent Elen after Cadi on the day she drowned. She calls Cadi by the nickname she used when Cadi was small: "li'l bit of heaven."

Film adaptations[edit]

In 2007, The Last Sin Eater was made into a feature film, directed by Michael Landon Jr..

The Last Sin Eater revolves around Cadi Forbes, ten-year-old girl who lives in a settlement community of Welsh Americans in the mid-1850s. Cadi carries a heavy burden of guilt and grief because of something that happened the year before, creating a wall of grief between her and her mother, Fia. At the beginning of the novel, Cadi's grandmother Gorawen has just died. At her funeral, the village's Sin Eater comes and Cadi does the "forbidden" and makes eye contact with him. The next day, Cadi goes to the river, thinking about how to get rid of the sins that she carries. At that time, a little girl named Lilybet appears, and after talking with her, Cadi decides to visit the Sin Eater in the hopes that he can take her sins from her. Cadi is the only one who can see or hear Lilybet, and her parents and others begin to believe that she is "keeping company with taints" and that Lilybet is a demon. Cadi seeks out the Sin Eater by talking first to Elda Kendric who is the oldest person in the village. Later, Fagan and Cadi become acquaintances, and together work to uncover the mystery that is the sin eater. During all of this, a man of God comes to share the word of God, but camps outside the village. Brogan Kai, the self-proclaimed village leader tells all of the villagers not to go near the man because of what the man speaks of. Brogan's son Fagan and Cadi go anyway. They are intrigued by the word of God, but do not approach the man out of fear. Cadi becomes even more determined to find the Sin Eater, believing she cannot go before the man of God with her sins. Cadi eventually finds the Sin Eater and convinces him to try to take away her sins if she promises to see the man of God and tell the Sin Eater what he says. The Sin Eater performs the ceremony, but nothing happens and no sins are removed. Eventually, it is revealed that the year before, Cadi's little sister drowned after following Cadi to the river and slipping on the log bridge. Cadi is overwhelmed with guilt because of this, and it is tearing her family apart. Cadi thinks that everyone blames her, and sees her mother's distant and withdrawn behavior as proof that her mother hates her. Despite the danger of being caught, Cadi goes back to talk to the man of God because of her promise to the Sin Eater. After listening to him for a time, she opens up to him, pouring out her guilt, and through his guidance comes to accept Christ and is baptized. Cadi shares her newfound faith with Miz Elda, Fagan notices the difference in her and, driven by his own motives to somehow unburden himself from the sins of his father, visits the man of God with Cadi the next night. Through the man's moving testimony, Fagan, as well, comes to accept Christ. The two children return night after night to learn more from the man, and begin to share what they know with the people around them. Tragedy strikes in the form of Brogan Kai, who kills the man of God, then turns his fury onto his son, Fagan, seriously injuring him. Cadi and Fagan escape, eventually, and stay at Bletsung’s home. There, Brogan Kai comes to visit, searching for Fagan and Cadi. Then it is revealed that Bletsung loves the sin eater, but Brogan Kai loves Bletsung, and wanted to marry her. Bletsung also tells how the sin eater was chosen. “Pieces of bone were used, a mark for each man placed on each one. They were put in a mazer bowl and stirred and drawn out by Cadi’s grandmother, Gorawen Forbes.”(229). Next, the Kai’s wife, Iona, visits. The two women began “spewing words so filled with hate it fair scorched the house.”(241). Iona is deeply in love with Brogan, but her beloved husband is in love with Bletsung, who loves the sin eater. Next, it is revealed that Iona is Miz Elda’s daughter, and therefore is Fagan’s grandma. While Bletsung and Iona fight, Cadi and Fagan run away to the sin eater’s cave. There, in the safety of his cave, Fagan and Cadi reveal the word of God to the Sin Eater, who is finally relieved of his burden of carrying the sins of so many others. While there, Cadi discovers cave paintings that, once explained by Miz Elda, finally bring to light the dark past of the mountain community and explain the origins of the Sin Eater. “ Laochailiand Kai shook the chiefs hand with one of his hands, and drew a gun with the other. He shot the man square in the face. He had a second gun tucked in his belt and drew it, killing another, all the while shouting for our men to burn the hogans. Then he went round and clubbed the wounded to death. All but one, the chief’s son…Kai tied them together, one after another, and took ‘em to the Narrows. He shot the chief’s son to death there, and when the young man fell, he took the rest with him down into the river. They all went over the falls.”(292, 293). After the depressing story, Miz Elda accepts the Lord as her savior, and is baptized by being dumped with a bucket of water. In the end, Brogan, Fagan, and the Sin Eater have a showdown in front of the entire village at Elda Kendrick’s house. It is revealed that all of the lots had the same mark on them- Sim’s mark. The bones used for the lots were what made up Iona’s corset. Next, Sim explained that the sin he had committed was killing Bletsung’s father, but he had only saved her from being ruined by her father. The Kai became full of rage, and attempted to shoot Sim GIllivray, shot himself instead. Then, Sim, being the new Christian and humble man he is, carried Brogan Kai to the cabin, and poor deceived and deprived Miz Elda who helped take care of him. Although only seven come to accept Christ that day, others follow later. Cadi's mother forgives her, saying she never blamed Cadi for Elen's death, but rather herself. She reveals that it was in fact herself she wishes had died in Elen's place, as she had sent Elen after Cadi on the day she drowned. She calls Cadi by the nickname she used when Cadi was small: "wee li'l bit of heaven." Later on, Douglas Kai is never seen again, Cleet Kai is killed in a bear attack, Iona takes the blame but stays by Brogan, Brogan stayed proud and bitter until he died, some of the valley people never turned to God, Dead man’s Mountain became Prophet’s Peak, Sim took Bletsung to be his bride, and they had a son named Morgan Kerr Gillivray, Fagan left the valley, became a preacher, came back, married Cadi, they had a daughter named Annabel Beathas Kai, who married Morgan, Miz Elda’s cabin was built off of, and became the New covenant House, and Cadi grew up and old, and became a Grandma, all the while staying true to the Lord.