Judy's Reviews > Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai

Holy Man by Gavan Daws
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's review
Jul 04, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: 2011-reads, bio-memoir, hawaii, usa

This is a great book to read in conjunction with Alan Brennert's Moloka'i. However, don't expect it to be a chronicling of Father Damien's good deeds, compassion, etc. I don't recall reading any accounts of his personal interaction with the leprosy patients. This disappointed me and is the reason I only gave it three stars. It is more about Damien's battles with the Catholic higher-ups in Honolulu. After reading this book, I have a lot of respect for his ability to get things done for the leprosy patients, his lack of racism, queasiness around disfigured people (this can't be said about other missionaries and most of the priests)but his motivation seems to be to work his way into Heaven rather than a genuine love or affection for the people. Now this may be just the angle this particular biography took, but it seems that there would be some inkling somewhere to prove otherwise. Overall, the book is well-written, not a difficult or boring read although it isn't a page turner.

page 130 of Holy Man, This was leprosy as politics; there was, also, of course, leprosy as leprosy. This is a pretty good summation of this book. It is mostly about the politics of leprosy and a little bit about leprosy as leprosy.
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Reading Progress

July 4, 2011 – Started Reading
July 4, 2011 – Shelved
July 4, 2011 –
page 19
July 5, 2011 –
page 25
July 8, 2011 –
page 60
July 11, 2011 –
page 217
July 12, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I remember thinking the same thing about the missionaries who came to Hawaii when I read Michener's novel, Hawaii. They didn't have a genuine love for the Hawaiian people, they just wanted to please God by taming the savages, so to speak.
Sounds like an interesting take on Father Damien. It can't have been easy to be caught in the middle---trying to care for the lepers and wrangle with church politics at the same time.

Judy Thanks for your comments, Jeanette. Now I'll have to read Hawaii, too. :-)
My husband purchased a book,Thy Will Be Done: the conquest of the Amazon by Gerard Colby, that I hope I'll get to some time in the near future. Its about how the government used missionaries to tame the indigenous people in order to take advantage of them. Sounds intriguing, I'm interested in seeing what his documentation is, too.

message 3: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Ooh, I'll have to take a look at the Amazon one. The only Amazon book I've read is The Lost City of Z, which convinced me it's not a place I'd ever want to visit!

message 4: by Judy (last edited Jul 13, 2011 02:49PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy I came to the same opinion after reading The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. I don't know how anyone survives to be the ripe old age of 20 down there!

Susan (aka Just My Op) I loved reading Moloka'i but know little about Father Damien. It seems there is a lot of good work done "to get into heaven" rather than just to do good, but it still accomplishes some good anyway.

I loved The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, too, but am content to be an armchair traveler. I finished Ann Patchett's State of Wonder a few days ago, and while I wasn't crazy about the book as a whole, I loved the descriptions of the Amazon.

Judy Susan,

So, I can throw away that invite I was going to send for the Amazon Adventure.... (smiles!)

Susan (aka Just My Op) Yes, that would be good. Snakes are not my friends. (Yeah, yeah, I know that they do good, keep down the rodent population, things like that, but I prefer that they do it where I am not.)

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