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4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  75,292 Ratings  ·  7,330 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,
Paperback, 405 pages
Published October 4th 2004 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published October 21st 2003)
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Eleanor That is best answered by reading the book. It is a wonderful story.
Liesel Yes. It has a romantic element as it follows a young woman's life as she grows up but I would in no way classify this as a romance novel.
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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 it was amazing
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
Oct 31, 2011 Hannah rated it it was ok


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
Feb 29, 2008 Juliana rated it it was amazing
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
Richard Derus
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
Jul 03, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
Update: I never wrote a full review of this book. I read it before I joined Goodreads. --Its 'still' a favorite!
If you've never read about the ways the community reacted to leprosy during its day --this book gives you the experience. (pretty sad)
A young girl is removed from her family --sent to the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'.
We meet many vibrant characters on the island and watch Rachel grow up --I laughed -and cried. This story has stayed with me for approx. 13 y
Lance Greenfield
Feb 17, 2015 Lance Greenfield rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2016 Poonam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
4.5 stars

This story was an eye-opener. It deals with the topic of Leprosy also known as Hansen's disease...

Frankly speaking I never thought much about Leprosy and ashamed to say neither did I know much about this disease. The only thing that came to mind when hearing the word Leprosy is distorted features.....

This story is based in the late 19th century when Leprosy was a major disease and there was no known cure for the same.
This is a fictional story of a Leprosy patient based on true histo
Mar 23, 2016 Camie rated it it was amazing
"God doesn't give anyone leprosy. He gives us, if we choose to use it, the spirit to live with leprosy, and with the imminence of death. Because it is in our own mortality that we are most divine."
Anyone who knows my families health history will know why this book spoke to me. There's nothing like a heaping helping of illness to change ones perspective on life. Rachel is just seven years old when she is taken from her family and banished to the island Moloka'i having been found to have Leprosy.
Jun 10, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sep 11, 2015 Britany rated it really liked it
What a heartbreaking story-- one that always seemed to seep desolation and loneliness. I was prepared to be emotionally invested and from one tragic event to the next I didn't full lose it until the very end. (view spoiler). Rachel, the narrator is one of the strongest characters I've had the pleasure to live through. She is shipped to Moloka'i at 7 years old because she tested positive to Lepros ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Melki rated it liked it
This is an ambitious novel that covers many tumultuous and eventful decades of history.

It should also be subtitled When Every Bad Thing Happens to One Person.

You don't expect a novel about a leper colony to be the feel-good read of the year, but gee willikers...

I was reminded of the moment in films when one character says "It can't get any worse than this!" and immediately it starts pouring.

Having leprosy and being snatched away from loved ones is not BRUTAL ENOUGH. Being exiled and forced to l
Oct 25, 2011 Jasika rated it did not like it
Surely the worst book of which I have ever read half. I kept thinking, "No self-proclaimed best seller can be THIS'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
Jun 23, 2011 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Laura

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
Apr 06, 2016 Warwick rated it it was ok
By-the-numbers ‘exotic’ historical fiction about the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Moloka‘i at the end of the nineteenth century. The language is an ungainly mixture of anachronistic modernisms (‘she gave him the stink-eye’), boring clichés (‘harsh glare’, ‘warm glow’), and metaphorical flourishes that fall flat (‘Dorothy felt something wet fall on her leg, unexpected as a drop of rain on a sunny day’). Brennert is a veteran screenwriter for shows like L.A. Law, and much of the dialogue ...more
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
Jul 08, 2016 Emma rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, ya
The author himself says at the end that this was really a fictionalised biography more than a fictional novel. This made sense to me because it read like a biography but I thought maybe it hadn't been deliberate, which just made it poor writing. However the author wanted to give full respect and acknowledgement to the people whose lives this book was based upon and for this I respect the author more.
It is clear he loves Hawaii.
I found this book quite slow with a lot of information dumping. I fou
Dec 22, 2011 Thomas rated it really liked it
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
Nov 04, 2011 Dem rated it really liked it
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
Jun 06, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing
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
Elizabeth Weltin
Dec 21, 2007 Elizabeth Weltin rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
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.
Oct 01, 2008 Anthony rated it it was ok
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.
Regina Lindsey
Sep 26, 2012 Regina Lindsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Mar 07, 2012 Jane rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 18, 2016 Kristie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction
This was a beautifully written book. There were a couple of parts that were a bit slow, but they were small parts. In general, I thought the book had a nice pace, just enough description to help you clearly see the locations, and a big dose of emotion.

This is a book where you feel a connection to the characters. You feel that you know them and have spent time with them. You care what happens to them. There are some very sad parts in this book, but it never feels weighted down or overwhelming. T
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
This is an incredible book. Alan Brennert's meticulous research and eye for detail shine on every page. It calls to mind Memoirs of a Geisha, in that it is another phenomenal book written by a white man whose primary focus is the life of an Asian woman living in a wholly different time period and area of the world in comparison to himself.

I went into this excited because of a) the pretty cover (HELLO) and b) because it was a historical fiction book set in Hawaii. I had no prior knowledge of the
I don't understand how this book got so many good reviews. I was not a fan of the author's writing style. It did not evoke emotion or endear me to the characters. The only thing that interested me was learning a little of the history of leprosy and the affect it had on the Hawaiian people. I felt like I was reading a history book, not a novel. The book would jump between narrators at weird spots and mess up the flow. And there were random side stories that didn't relate to the main storyline at ...more
Actual rating: 2.5 stars, reluctantly rounded up to 3. This novel had a great plot line, which suffered I think from the author’s rigid adherence to historical fact. I think he would be much better at writing text books than fiction, which is not the insult that it sounds, as both are separate skills and both necessary in our world. But this could have been such a good story and it missed its mark for me by such a huge margin.

It’s such a wonderful setting—the lushness and harshness both of Hawai
Aug 28, 2008 Larisa rated it really liked it
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
Dec 07, 2009 Theresa rated it it was amazing
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
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  • Molokai
  • Shark Dialogues
  • The Last Aloha
  • Color of the Sea
  • Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln
  • Women of the Silk
  • Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2)
  • The Blood of Flowers
  • The Calligrapher's Daughter
  • The Septembers of Shiraz
  • Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe (Josephine Bonaparte, #2)
  • Follow the River
  • The Healing
  • Tallgrass
  • The Secrets of Mary Bowser
  • Mudbound
  • The Dry Grass of August
  • The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai
Alan Brennert is the author of the historical novels Palisades Park, Honolulu (chosen one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post), and Moloka'i, which won the 2006 Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the Book Club Book of the Year (and has sold over half a million copies since publication). He is also the author of the thought-provoking fantasy novel Time and Chance ...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.” 65 likes
“I've come to believe that how we choose to live with pain, or injustice, or the true measure of the Divine within us.” 34 likes
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