Moloka'i

Moloka'i

[a Novel]

Book - 2003
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Young Rachel Kalama, growing up in idyllic Honolulu in the 1890s, is part of a big, loving Hawaiian family, and dreams of seeing the far-off lands that her father, a merchant seaman, often visits. But at the age of seven, Rachel and her dreams are shattered by the discovery that she has leprosy. Forcibly removed from her family, she is sent to Kalaupapa, the isolated leper colony on the island of Moloka'i.
In her exile she finds a family of friends to replace the family she's lost: a native healer, Haleola, who becomes her adopted "auntie" and makes Rachel aware of the rich culture and mythology of her people; Sister Mary Catherine Voorhies, one of the Franciscan sisters who care for young girls at Kalaupapa; and the beautiful, worldly Leilani, who harbors a surprising secret. At Kalaupapa she also meets the man she will one day marry.
True to historical accounts, "Moloka'i" is the story of an extraordinary human drama, the full scope and pathos of which has never been told before in fiction. But Rachel's life, though shadowed by disease, isolation, and tragedy, is also one of joy, courage, and dignity. This is a story about life, not death; hope, not despair. It is not about the failings of flesh, but the strength of the human spirit.
Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, c2003
ISBN: 9780312304348
031230434X
Branch Call Number: BRE
Characteristics: 389 p

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If you’ve ever been a member of a book club, you would know that it’s rare when everyone gets to like the same book. Usually, there are opposing opinions. Not with this book! A dozen of people gave it 4 stars out of 5. Impressive! We thought it was well written, easy to read, interesting, based on historical facts which allowed us all to learn something new or expand what bits and pieces we already knew.

The novel focuses on the leprosy epidemic of late 19th and early 20th century in Hawaii. The disease was little understood at the time and was spreading so much that the government naturally decided to quarantine the sick. However, the quarantine part was rather radical. People with disease were sent away to an island and that was their doomed, last destination since there were no effective treatments available. Even more disheartening is that children were treated the same as adults – they were sent away too, torn away from their families. The main character in the book is Rachel Kalama. She gets to be sent away when she is 6 years old. The story follows her life, as she grows up, and faces various challenges. The ending is not all ‘cakes and roses’, but it’s not bad at all and you are left in a positive mood regardless of a heavy subject. (Submitted by Mariya)

h
hawaiianpride66
Sep 17, 2018

This book is now one of my favorites of all time. Being Hawaiian, I've always been interested in Moloka'i and Father Damien. This story was told from the viewpoint of a little girl who was taken from her family and sent to Moloka'i. The author enables the reader to experience the emotions of the little girl, as well as her family. It was upsetting and heartwrenching, but that's partly what made it such a good read. Rather than being inundated with dry facts, the reader is take on an emotional roller ride. I highly recommend this book.

b
brangwinn
May 16, 2016

This book reminds me a little of Michener's Hawaii. While it doesn't,t have the breadth of Michener's work, the depth it provides about the leper colony is astonishing. I wish I had read this book before I had visited Moloka'i. Brennert has done in-depth research in the story about Rachel Kalama who was sent to the leper colony as a child. By focusing on her and creating a character that encompasses the experiences of many, he's created a very readable book. If nothing else the reader comes away with a sense of the continuing miracle of medicine and how antibiotics were the miracle that has cured leprosy.

h
htliang
Nov 13, 2015

This is an incredibly moving story of a young Hawaiian girl's life after contracting leprosy at the age of seven. Taken from her close-knit family and sent to Molokai with other leprosy victims, Rachel Kalama faced a prison of a different sort. Here she meets some unforgettable characters among the nuns and the dying children and adults.

This novel is fiction but the experiences of these Hansen's (leprosy) patients is real - as are the historical events that are built into the novel. Rachel's life is briefly touched by tsunamis, wars, and Japanese internment camps. We are also introduced to real people who lived at Kalaupapa in Molokai.

Rachel learnt to find beauty in suffering and love in death. Young girls that she feared to even look at when she first arrived, became her dear friends. This is her first encounter with Violet (a girl she had been studiously avoiding): Rachel went to the girl, saw her face close up for the first time: nose and lips swollen to twice their normal size, skin pocked with raw red sores. She thought of the girl she had seen her first day at Kalihi, the one who made her scream and run; but this one filled her with no fear, only sadness. "Hi. I'm Rachel."

This book will cause some tears, but may also help you become a better person - seeing the soul inside the victim. It also is a testament to the importance of scientific research to discover cures for the diseases that cause pain, suffering, and death.

l
lpreston214
Aug 11, 2015

Heartbreaking yet uplifting story of an Hawaiian girl diagnosed with Hansen's disease in the age when "lepers" were segregated and sent to an inaccessible area on the island of Moloka'i.

b
barb8571
Jun 20, 2015

I loved his other book Honolulu, so got this one hoping it would be as good or even better. The writing is just as good, but the story is really depressing and sad. I didn't finish the book.

c
clareba
Oct 01, 2014

poorly written yawn

a
AlisonFlannigan
Mar 27, 2013

wonderful story - would be great a great epic movie.
characters are so believable and their story lures you along.
an extremely interesting read.

w
WormsBookChief
Feb 11, 2013

Fascinating story about an island off Hawaii that functions as a leper colony. The story was amazing, original and real. I appreciated how it shared the history of Hawaii, as well as the colony. If you liked this, check out 'The Island', also about a leper colony in Greece.

p
poodlegirl
Aug 19, 2012

This book was such a captivating story that I just couldn't put it down. Everything was so wonderfully described and the story represented a young girl who learned to accept her difficult situation with a lot of grace and a beautiful attitude. I spoke to the author personally and he said the story just wrote itself, unlike other books he'd published. I believe that to be true as it was such an easy story...it just flowed. I'd highly recommend it.

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lyndapringle
Apr 02, 2013

Moloka'i is a period book in Hawaii set from the 1890s to 1970. The book is about Rachel, who contracts leprosy in the 1890s, and is exiled to the island of Moloka'i. She is only 5 years old when she is diagnosed and her family is devastated. However, she does find joy in meeting up with her Uncle Pono at the island and makes new friends. The novel details the passing of the decades where Rachel meets new friends, loves and adventures. It also details the tragic moments of her life. Her best friend is Sister Catherine who helps her through the rough patches. The book wasn't much to my taste but I do trend toward books with lots of tragedy and drama and little happiness. However, the real annoyance of the novel was the constant description of the landscape. I understand the author was attempting to give the readers a flavor of the exoticness of the islands of Hawaii but pages of this lyrical description became boring. This is the reason why the book merits a low 3 stars. However, for those readers who don't mind a whole lot of description, I do recommend this book as a good accounting of the stigma of leprosy at the time and how one wonderful woman overcame this stigma with a great attitude and how she was able to shape a good life despite this tragic diagnosis.

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