Moloka'i
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Moloka'i

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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  53,951 ratings  ·  6,021 reviews
This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin,
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 4th 2004 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published October 21st 2003)
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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
64th out of 4,114 books — 17,544 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 2000s
169th out of 4,877 books — 23,377 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lisa Vegan
Apr 05, 2011 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who can enjoy a well-crafted, engaging, perfect historical fiction-coming of age story
Reading this book contained and gave me absolutely everything I love about reading. It encompasses everything I love about the reading process. I loved it so much I know I won’t be able to write a coherent or worthy review; there’s no way for me to do this story justice, except to recommend it to many, many people I know, something I’ve already started to do.

Not only couldn’t I conceive of not giving it 5 stars, it also easily made my favorites shelf.

It’s an outstanding book. Anything accurate I...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Young Rachel Kalama, growing up in idyllic Honolulu in the 1890s, is part of a big, loving Hawaiian family, and dreams of seeing the far-off lands that her father, a merchant seaman, often visits. But at the age of seven, Rachel and her dreams are shattered by the discovery that she has leprosy. Forcibly removed from her family, she is sent to Kalaupapa, the isolated leper colony on the island of Moloka'i.

In her exile she finds a family of friends to repl...more
Hannah
Disappointing.

Underwhelming.

Squandered potential.

Lacks "soul"
.

These are a few of the things that immediately sprang to mind after finishing Molika'i. After reading several 2 star reviews here on Goodreads by more gifted reviewers then myself, I really can't add much more without becoming repetitive.

Suffice it to say, this book had so much potential. So much possibility. And although a vast majority of readers thought it met (and exceeded) those parameters, for me it fell flat.

I wanted my soul to...more
Lance Greenfield
All because of fear

Unfounded fear, unbounded love, exile, cruelty, death, suffering, prejudice and, most of all, sacrifice. It is all there, in this beautiful story.

There is already enough description of the actual story on the fly leaf and all of the other reviews, but this is a wonderful book. It is well researched, and clearly based on fact. If any aspiring writer wants a lesson in character development, they need look no further than Moloka’i. There are so many prominent characters in this b...more
Juliana
One of my favorite books, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, delves into the crazy idea that people don’t have to be miserable when the world around them is. Moloka’i is another such book. The message: life isn’t over until it’s over.

Separated from everything dear to her, the heroine of this book, Rachel, learns at a young age that life can still provide her with simple joys—and profound fulfillment. And though she spends many moments peeking into the abyss of despair, she also spends moments rescu...more
Karen
Jun 10, 2011 Karen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Karen by: Minooka Bookies
Shelves: my-5-star-reads
All I can say is that this book broke my heart. Over and over again.

It reminded me of my response to the book The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, as it shed light on a time and place in history in which I was very ignorant. In the course of reading The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, I learned something about the Internment of Japanese Americans (in Seattle area) during WWII.

In the case of Moloka'i, I learned much about the leper colony on this small island of Hawaii in the la...more
Erin
Jan 29, 2009 Erin added it
I was watching a high speed car chase on television yesterday and something ACTUALLY HAPPENED. This is amazing, because Los Angeles probably generates about 3 high speed car chases a week and they are all INCREDIBLY BORING. This is because there is approximately 2353459845 miles of high way in Los Angeles and all of it is full of cars, all the time, making the general highest speed for a high speed car chase about, ohhhhh.... 20 mph.

(I guess that technically means there's actually about 23534598...more
Kathy
There's nothing quite like finishing a book and knowing that you now have a favorite to add to your list of favorite reads. While the story was as compelling a one as I've read, it was a learning novel for me, too. The absorption of Hawaii by the United States, the disease of leprosy or Hansen's disease, the leper colony of Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai (heck, the island itself), the island of Maui, early aviation. All of these subjects and more were presented in an amazing story by Brenner...more
Chrissie
NO SPOILERS!!!

I want to make it very clear; those of you who are looking for a book of historical fiction on life in Hawaii, look no further - this is your book. Do not make the mistake I made by first trying Shark Dialogues. I could not complete Shark Dialogues. Moloka'i will teach you about life in Hawai through the 1900s. It will teach you about leprosy, today called Hansen's Disease. I thought I knew quite a bit about this disease. This book proved me wrong. I learned so much. This book brin...more
Thomas
What is leprosy?

Before I read this book, my answer would've been "a disease". From watching "Drake and Josh" I could've assumed that it had to do with a person's skin. Now, after reading Moloka'i, I would say the same thing - it is a disease, after all - but I might add that this is a disease that tests the strength of the human spirit, just as it did with Rachel Kalama.

After a rose-colored mark indicating leprosy appears on her skin, seven-year-old Rachel is taken from her family to a quarantin...more
Jasika
Surely the worst book of which I have ever read half. I kept thinking, "No self-proclaimed best seller can be THIS bad...it's got to get better, its GOT to get BETTER!" But it didn't. I picked it up at the book store after visiting Lana'i, Hawaii for the first time and becoming enraptured by the culture and the land there, and fascinated by what the people must have been like pre-colonialism. From page one I knew there was little hope for this "historical fiction" book to be better than trite, b...more
Jessica
Jun 06, 2008 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to be in awe at people's resilience
Honolulu, Hawaii. 1890. Rachel is seven years old. She lives with her mother, father, sister and two brothers. She goes to school. She plays jokes on her sister. She watches her mother in the kitchen. She lives just like any typical seven-year-old. Until the day she is arrested for leprosy. She is taken into custody and sent to Moloka’i, an island where lepers are quarantined, in order to keep the rest of the world safe. The general assumption is that people go to Moloka’i to die. But, as Rachel...more
Regina Lindsey
This book can best be summed up in a quote from Sister Catherine, "I've come to believe that how we choose to live with pain, or injustice, or death is the true measure fo the Divine within us...I use to wonder, why did God give children leprosy? Now I believe God doesn't give anyone leprosy. He gives us, if we choose to use it, the spirit to live with leprosy, and with the iminence of death." (pg 307)

Set in Kalaupapa, a "leper colony" on the island of Moloka'i, the story spans the years 1891...more
Liz
I had high hopes for this book. Living in a Polynesia I was excited to learn more about what Hawaii was really like before it was a $1000 or less vacation, especially the aspect of the leper colony on Molokai.

Unfortunately, the writing was very flat. The author is a LA screenwriter and you could tell. This would have been better if written by a Hawaiian I think. Someone who knows what it feels like to live in the tropics day in, day out.

I was also disappointed by the story of the leper colony....more
Anthony
I really wanted to like this book. As the story progressed events became more and more labored and contrived. The main character Rachel did not seem to grow up in a believable way and continued to behave as a child might. I don't mind a bleak book but all the tragic events in Rachel's life were telegraphed to the reader well in advance. This book does excel in terms of describing Hawaiian history and appears to have been well researched.
Theresa
Dec 07, 2009 Theresa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Theresa by: Hearless Bitches
Shelves: book-club
In 1891, five-year-old Rachel Kalama is a young and carefree girl living in Hawaii. She spends her days playing with her siblings and friends and looks forward to steamer day – when her father comes home from his work on a steamer boat.

But life will not remain idyllic for Rachel. Soon her favorite Uncle, Pono, is sent away to Moloka’i because he has contracted leprosy and the only way that was known to prevent the spread of the disease was to quarantine the people. It also created an intense sti...more
Laura
Mar 07, 2011 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bettie, Hayes, Chrissie
Recommended to Laura by: Misfit
This is the story of Rachel Kalama, a girl who got leper with 6-years old and, by consequence, was segregated from her family in O'Ahu and sent to a colony of lepers in Moloka'i. The book tells about her struggle in order to get cured from this horrible disease and have her freedom re-established.

The author wrote a very touching story with a set a very special characters such as: her father who never stop to loved her and was the only family member who often visited her in Kalaupapa; Sister Cat...more
Dem
Moloka'i is a book that sums up all the things I like about historical fiction. I love to learn something with each book that I read and with Moloka'i you get everything that makes a great story.

I really enjoyed this novel and I had thought from reading the blurb that this was going to be a depressing read and but Alan Brennert has a way of telling a story and getting the point across without dragging the Novel down and making it depressing. I loved the way Brennert deals with human tragedy of...more
Jane
Where I got the book: my local library. A Goodreads Effect book, meaning that I read it because I'd seen it talked about on GR.

Sigh. Verdict if you want the short version: a brilliantly conceived and well researched novel that misses the mark in its execution.

Long version: I was excited about this book. The premise was a premise of promise: a little Hawaiian girl is exiled to the leper colony of Moloka'i, torn from her family by the dread disease. She is befriended by a nun, who struggles with h...more
Amy (amyb2332)
I really loved this book. Rachel is such a powerful main character and I felt like she was so well written. I don't really have anything negative to say about the book. The only reason I'm not giving this five stars is that for some reason probably not the fault of the acutal book, I found this for the most part to be a slow read. I'm not sure if it is because of the natural breaks in the story as Rachel ages or if it was the Hawaiian words that added a lot of depth and feel to the story but oft...more
Larisa
Aug 28, 2008 Larisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Larisa by: Janice
Shelves: book-club-picks
I stayed up until 2 a.m. finishing the last 100 pages of this book, stifling my tears so as not to wake up my husband. Needless to say this book is heart-breaking at times but also uplifting.

The story follows the life of Rachel, who at the age of 7(?) is suspected of having leprosy and forced to leave her family to live in a hospital under quarantine and eventually shipped to the live out the rest of her days in a secluded leper colony on the island of Moloka'i. Rachel's life on the island, whi...more
Jessica
Mar 13, 2009 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jessica by: Leigh Anne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tania
I've come to believe that how we choose to live with pain, or injustice, or death... is the true measure of the Divine within us.

4.5 stars. There are so many things that I liked about this book. I did not know anything about leprosy/Hansen's disease or Hawaii before reading this book. The author has the amazing ability to provide you with a lot of information on both these topics and embedding this information in Rachel's story. I never felt like I was reading background information, everything...more
L
Jul 24, 2008 L rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gio
Moloka'i . . . what a beautiful sounding name for a culmination of cruelty in health policy. And yet the beauty of the name does fit the essence of th tale,which is one of the strength of ordinary people and the building of community in the face of great difficulty.

Moloka'i was a leper colony in Hawaii, dominated by bureaucrats, repression, and the Catholic church, all mixed together with a devastating and terrifying (at the time) disease, in the context of U.S. imperialism and WWII. The portra...more
Yolanda
I truly loved this book and read it in 3 days. I feel that the author so captured the time period well.
It is a hearbreadking story of love and loss and what being a family truly means. It shows in great detail what ones Ohana is and that often it isn't your blood relations.Rachel found hers in so many of those that she lived around.It also shows that a mother and fathers love never dies.It also shows how hatred and prejudice can breed violence and have very lifechanging results.

Rachel despite he...more
Cheryl in CC NV
Not depressing! I don't usually read historical fiction but I'm glad a group here prompted me to read this. I don't know how to evaluate except to say I learned a lot; it was smooth reading, lovely and clear and well-paced; and there were a lot of interesting characters.

I am thankful that, by the time our heroine got to the island, the community was starting to grow, the Sisters were nursing the patients, and the conditions weren't as miserable in the early decades.

I can say the characters wer...more
Crystal Starr Light
"That is what I believe in, Aouli. I believe in Hawai'i. I believe in the land."

Rachel Kalama is only a girl of seven when she is taken from the loving arms of her mother and father, Dorothy and Henry Kalama, and sent to Kalaupapa, Moloka'i, a leper colony. But although Rachel is torn away from her biological 'ohana, family, she forges relationships and connections that carry her through her illness.

I chose this book for my book club because I spent almost 12 years of my childhood in Hawaii. And...more
Xstch3
I enjoyed reading this book set in the late 1800's in Honolulu, Hawaii- about Rachel Kalama, who at the age of seven had a sore that wouldn't heal, and was found to have Hansen's disease (leprosy), by a school inspector. She was torn away from her parents and siblings and forced to live in Kalaupapa on Moloka'i, in the quarantined leprosy settlement. She thought it was the end of her life but discovers it's just the beginning.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote: "They were strangers to each other, col...more
LibraryCin
This is set in Hawaii in the late 1800s, and continues through the first half of the 20th century. In the 1890s, Rachel is diagnosed with leprosy at only 7 years old; she is sent away to Moloka'i where lepers go to keep them from infecting others. She grows up on Moloka'i, always hoping she'll test so that she can one day leave the island and be reunited with her parents and siblings. The book follows Rachel's entire life.

This was really good. I don't really know anything about leprosy, except t...more
Ellie
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert is the story of 6-year-old Rachel, an Hawaiian child living a happy life with her sister, brothers, and parents in Honolulu at the end of the 19th century. Her happiness is shattered when it is discovered she suffers from Hansen's Disease, then known as leprosy, forcibly removed from her family and sent to live in exile, in the settlement Kalaupapa.

Brennert's book describe's not only Rachel's life and struggles but, in doing so, the history of Hawaii throughout most of...more
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Novel People Of E...: Aprils book selection is Moloka'i 5 10 Aug 11, 2014 07:53AM  
Historical Fictio...: Feb 2014: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert 87 206 May 15, 2014 12:01PM  
Bookworm Buddies: Moloka'i 6 15 May 10, 2014 12:40PM  
Did you think the lepers should have been banished? 17 130 Feb 19, 2014 06:22PM  
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  • Skeletons at the Feast
  • Rooftops of Tehran
  • Those Who Save Us
  • The Calligrapher's Daughter
  • All the Flowers in Shanghai
  • My Enemy's Cradle
  • Pope Joan
  • The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai
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  • Pearl of China
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Alan Brennert's newest novel, Palisades Park, comes out 4/9/2013. Alan is the author of the historical novels Honolulu and Moloka'i, which was a 2006-2007 BookSense Reading Group Pick and won the 2006 Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the Book Club Book of the Year. He is also the author of the thought-provoking fantasy novel Time and Chance. In addition to novels, he has w...more
More about Alan Brennert...
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“Fear is good. In the right degree it prevents us from making fools of ourselves. But in the wrong measure it prevents us from fully living. Fear is our boon companion but never our master.” 47 likes
“I've come to believe that how we choose to live with pain, or injustice, or death....is the true measure of the Divine within us.” 26 likes
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