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Archive: Other Books > Moloka'i by Alan Brennert - 4.5 stars

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Joy D | 3182 comments Moloka'i by Alan Brennert - 4.5 stars

One of the main reasons I love to read is to be transported to a different time and place. This historical fiction about experiences in a leper settlement at Kaluapapa on the island of Moloka’i, beginning in the 1890’s (and continuing into the twentieth century), accomplished this feat in fine fashion. The story begins with a young girl, Rachel Kalama, living with her family in Honolulu. When she contracts leprosy (now called Hansen’s Disease), she is removed from her family and sent to Moloka’i. The narrative follows the major events of Rachel’s life, focusing on close bonds she establishes. It is based on the experiences of real people with Hansen’s Disease and what happened to them historically. It highlights the fear, stigma, prejudice, and inhumane treatment they endured. There are obviously lessons to be learned in how we treat those with currently incurable contagious diseases today.

This book contains a satisfying mix of characters, plot, and originality. The author manages to make Rachel’s life of exile into a remarkable story. After all, she’s living in a small community on an island. What could possibly happen to fill an entire novel? Well, plenty can and does, and I found it both sad and thought-provoking. Rachel is a strong likeable character and it is easy to root for her. She faces an abundance of adversity and finds ways to avoid being defined by her condition.

It is obvious Brennert has done extensive research. He provides information on the background and treatment of the disease, following a historical progression, which I found extremely enlightening. He also includes a good amount of the history of Hawai’i and how it has changed over the years. It serves as touching tribute to people of the past that suffered greatly and have generally been overlooked. Content includes vivid descriptions of the ravages of Hansen’s Disease, one extremely violent scene, and a small amount of sex and profanity. I found it captivating, emotionally moving, and tragic but ultimately uplifting. Highly recommended!

Link to my GR review:

message 2: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7227 comments I also love "traveling back in time" and feeling as though you are really there! For me reading is pure unadulterated escapism!

This looks right up alley-Wonderful review!

Joy D | 3182 comments Thanks, Joanne!

message 4: by KateNZ (new) - added it

KateNZ | 2211 comments I have a film on DVD about Moloka’i but it’s not based on this book I think - it focuses on Father Damien who looked after the people in the colony on the island. Such an interesting history though.

Joy D | 3182 comments Father Damien is mentioned in this book, along with other real historic figures. He didn't have a major role in it, but it was definitely very interesting.

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5630 comments Read the nonfiction: The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman

I read it before I ever joined Shelfari (or Goodreads), so my "review" is very brief. But the book has stayed with me.

annapi | 4903 comments I need to get to the sequel!

Joy D | 3182 comments Book Concierge, it sounds like an interesting read. I may wait a while before tackling the same subject matter (it's difficult to read about the torments these people experienced).

Annapi, I think the sequel follows the next generation of the survivors.

Ellen | 2083 comments This was one of my favorite books the year I read it. Lovely review, Joy.

message 10: by Joy D (last edited Dec 12, 2018 09:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy D | 3182 comments Thank you, Ellen. I keep a running list of my 25 favorites of the year and this book will be on the list.

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7692 comments I got an ARC of the sequel and it really has very little to do with leprosy or Moloka'i, but follows the next generation with a focus on Japanese in CA following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Equally heartbreaking, but really a totally different topic. Of course, does touch on some aspects of leprosy and the colony, particularly at the very beginning and end.

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