The Divide

By: Jolina Petersheim


Well, here you have it, friends: my fourth novel. There were times during The Divide’s creation that I wasn’t sure I would ever reach this stage of the process, and now—because of an indomitable group of supporters—I have.

First off, I want to thank my wonderful publishing team at Tyndale House, who were equally determined to make this story the best it could possibly be.

A special, heartfelt thank-you to Karen Watson, Stephanie Broene, and Kathy Olson for your unending patience. You all are a joy to work with.

Thank you, Wes Yoder, for your good humor and kindness.

A huge thank-you to my family members, who are so essential to the juggling act of parenting and writing. Betty and Rich Petersheim, Jen Weaver, Joanne Petersheim, Beverly and Merle Miller, Josh and Caleb Miller: Each of you has helped me pursue this dream in one way or another (but mostly by babysitting). I am deeply grateful.

To my best friend, Misty: Thank you for your wisdom concerning these characters and for being honest when I asked where you wanted this story to go. Your input helped shape so much.

To Joel and Marissa Kendhammer: Your testimony was key to helping me learn to overcome fear with faith. Thank you for letting God use you.

To my daughters, Miss A and Miss M: Oh, how I love you! Thank you for helping me keep life in perspective, even when I’m on deadline. Being your mama is my favorite job in the world. You are each so special and precious to me.

To my husband: You are the one who sees me on the good writing days and the bad, and you love me regardless. Thank you for being my constant supporter, editor, and friend. Moses’s voice would sound like a girl’s if not for you. I love you so much.

Thank you, Lord God, for being patient with me and loving me unconditionally as I journey through this life. You are a good, good Father.



YOU NEVER KNOW how hard something’s going to be until it’s too late to change your mind. As I watch Leora ride away on the back of Jabil’s horse—her loose, dark hair snapping like a pennant—I have to fight the urge to go after her. But I know, for her sake and for the sake of her Mennonite community, I have to remain.

It’s a good thing I do. About ten minutes later, part of the perimeter collapses with a movement as graceful and altering as an ice cliff sliding into the sea. Hot coals shower the ground. Smoke rises. I crouch behind the scaffolding, preparing to defend the property as long as I can so the families have enough time to escape into the mountains.

The first man steps through, his figure a blur in the choking haze. I adjust my rifle, trying to find the man in the scope. I’m not fast enough. Another man runs in, and another. The fourth one pauses for only a second, but that second costs him his life. I shoot a few more times, and then I stop to reload, pressing rounds into the chamber one by one, but my fingers are shaking. I look up to see a man leveling a gun at me. My body braces for impact, which is ludicrous. You can’t brace yourself for something like that. I take a shot in the stomach and fall to my knees. I try to get to my feet but stumble until I’m sitting back in the dirt. I support my upper body by bracing my left arm on the ground and using my right arm to hold my abdomen.

There’s so much adrenaline coursing through me that I don’t feel pain. Instead, staring down at the wound, I feel only disappointment. The community’s lives are resting in my hands because their pacifist ideals won’t allow them to fight back against the gang, even to protect their families, and now I am not sure what will become of them. This thought brings with it the first wave of debilitating pain and nausea. I should be grateful Leora left with Jabil, for even without raising a weapon, he could probably do a better job of protecting her than I. But I can’t help wishing I could relive these past hard weeks, starting when I crashed in her meadow to the moment—just an hour ago—when we kissed in front of the burning perimeter, the community’s last line of defense, which somehow helped put Leora’s and my own defenses into place.

I hope Jabil makes her happy. I hope he loves her the way I would, if our world weren’t so messed up. But it is. I let the pain sweep me under. Oblivion is easier than reality.


Believing Moses good as dead, the gang rushes past him.

I have been hiding in the shadows of Field to Table, waiting on the off chance that Moses might need me. And now he does. I study him a moment, aware that he will die out there if I don’t help him, and yet aware I might die if I do. I think of my son, Colton, on his way up the mountain, and realize there’s no point keeping myself safe for him if I never use my life to do any good. Taking a breath, I duck low and dart past Field to Table, the lane, and the blanket of coals where the fallen perimeter once stood. Moses is lying on the ground, the front of his shirt soaked with blood. My first thought is that he is actually dead, and then I see movement as his body involuntarily strains for air.

The gang seems so intent on finding things of value, and being the first to wreck the next house, they do not notice us behind them. I understand they are going to pillage and probably burn the rest of the community to the ground, and I suppose I should care. But I don’t. I don’t care about anything but getting Moses out of here alive. I drag him by his boots under the scaffolding and press the side of my face to his mouth. His ragged breath fills the curl of my ear. He opens his eyes. Though he appears disoriented, I can tell he comprehends what’s happening. I lift Moses up as gently as possible and feel behind his back. There’s a wet spot about the size of my hand. I don’t know as much about healing as I claimed when I got that deacon to let me stay at Mt. Hebron, but I do know it’s good the bullet appears to have gone straight through.