Monday, July 11, 2011
REVIEW: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
I had to take a little bit of time to digest this book. It pulled me in from the very beginning with the introduction of Rachel, the vibrant and courageous little girl who we see grow into adulthood. I could not imagine how awful it must have been for families in Hawaii to experience this-to be ripped away from everyone they love and everything they know to go live on an island full of sick strangers and not in the best conditions either. The way the author describes the environment the first people brought to the leper colony were forced to live in was heart rending.
We see Rachel grow from the seven year old girl into a young woman under the tutelage of the nuns on the island. Unlike most on the island, Rachel does not have a really aggressive form of leprosy. Hers is a break out here and there. Many of Rachel's friends were not as fortunate and the deformities caused by the disease were seriously debilitating. What made this book stand out for me is the cast of characters are struck by this horrible disease which weakens their bodies and disfigures them but there is so much hope among the despair. They develop strong bonds with each other, find love, and are so determined to carve out lives for themselves despite all the difficulties the disease brings for them. This book is also full of heartbreak because as normal as Rachel and her friends try to be, there are just some things that the leprosy holds them back from. It saddened me to know that people actually experienced this. I was completely drawn in by these characters and the author's ability to weave such a compelling story out of this piece of Hawaii's history. Speaking of history, there is a good amount of that here too in addition to Rachel's story. The author does a tremendous job of describing life during the 1890's in Hawaii from daily life to fall of the Hawaiian monarchy.
I loved this book and cannot think of one thing I would change about it. This is a wonderful story. If you are on the fence of devoting yourself to 400 page story about leprosy, I urge you to pick this book up and read it. It is so much more than that because of the wonderful characters, especially Rachel, and I don't think you will regret it.
This book is from my own personal library