Theresa's Reviews > Moloka'i

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
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Dec 07, 09

bookshelves: book-club
Recommended to Theresa by: Hearless Bitches
Read in August, 2009, read count: 1

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 stigma for the family of the victim. Rachel does not understand why her uncle is gone and misses him immensely.

Inspectors come into her school on a regular basis looking for children who have developed leprosy to send away. One day, when she is seven, Rachel notices she has a sore that won’t heal. She does her best to hide it, but it is eventually found and she is sent to Moloka’i.

This causes much sorrow and chaos in her life and family. Rachel is initially allowed live with her uncle (who has been divorced by his wife) and the woman he lives with. The nuns who run the home for the girls under 16 are not happy about this and soon order Pono to allow Rachel to live with the other girls to protect her from the immorality outside the home.

Rachel is initially not happy about this. But she soon befriends the other girls and, most especially, one of the nuns who becomes integral in helping Rachel live through the happy and sad times that are to come.

This is a very moving and endearing story. While a massive change like this might seem like the end of life for most, it’s a beginning and an opening to a whole new world for Rachel.
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