Jessica's Reviews > Moloka'i

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
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Jun 06, 08

Recommended for: Anyone who wants to be in awe at people's resilience
Read in June, 2008

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 soon discovers, there is so much living to do before that happens! She surrounds herself with a new family; girls and boys, men and women, most of them sent there for the same reason. Though the life she and the others on Moloka’i lead is a trying one, restricted to live with an always present, always looming death, they experience a life that is not so different from the people on the other Hawaiian Islands and on the mainland. A first kiss, a first dance, a first love… And mixed in are also world firsts too! They welcome the 20th century with cars, planes, baseball, silent movies, talking movies, etc... The book follows Rachel, her entourage and their disease, as they grow; through the good and the bad.

I didn’t realize just how much I enjoyed this book until I reached the very last page. As I was reading it, I thought to myself: ‘This is okay, not great, but okay’. But by the time I reached the last page, I had tears in my eyes.

First, there was horror and revolt as I read about the way these sick people were treated. I had to remind myself that this was supposed to be late 19th century and early 20th, and not the year 2008. I understand this behavior came from ignorance, and the lack of science and technology and understanding. Then, the awe at how strong we really are, and how humans can cope with so much physically, and even more emotionally. I had to root for Rachel and her deformed friends, as they are the ultimate underdogs. Another aspect of this book was the author’s wonderful descriptions of the story’s backdrop. It was easy to imagine the sheer beauty of Rachel’s surroundings. I dreamt of traveling to Hawaii while reading this book. And the author definitely did his research. The book includes the historical events of the time, as well as the language of the location.

Definitely a wonderful read. Aloha.
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Elise I'm reading this right now and I'm not enjoying it either, so I'm glad you said that you stuck it out and were pleased. I'll try to stick it out too.


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