"The Last Sin Eater" by Francine Rivers is one of the best Christian novels I've read. The author takes us back in time, to a small village in the Appalachian mountains, and introduces the odd custom of a "sin eater." This is a pagan tradition the people had brought from Scotland. The community casts lots, choosing one man who will take upon himself other people's sins. When chosen, the sin eater will become an outcast, summoned only when someone dies. Then he comes to the funeral, says a prayer and eats bread and wine left for him, which represents taking the dead person's sins. Since he is believed to carry all kinds of evil on his shoulders, the sin eater is forbidden even to look at. When he comes to "eat sins, " everyone turns away.
A young girl, Cadi, secretly breaks the rule and steals a glance at the sin eater. She has nothing to lose: with a terrible sin she believes herself to be carrying, seeing the sin eater will not make things much worse for her. In fact, he is her only hope: tired of her burden, Cadi wants to find the sin eater and ask him to do take it away.
I do not know how historical the custom of sin eater is; even if it is completely made-up, I don't care. The book does such an excellent job presenting and discussing spiritual truths, paving the way to introduce Jesus Christ, the only "Sin eater" really capable of taking our sin.