This Richly Imagined Novel, Set In Hawai I Than A Century Ago, Is An Extraordinary Epic Of A Little Known Time And Place And A Deeply Moving Testament To The Resiliency Of The Human SpiritRachel Kalama, A Spirited Seven Year Old Hawaiian Girl, Dreams Of Visiting Far Off Lands Like Her Father, A Merchant Seaman Then One Day A Rose Colored Mark Appears On Her Skin, And Those Dreams Are Stolen From Her Taken From Her Home And Family, Rachel Is Sent To Kalaupapa, The Quarantined Leprosy Settlement On The Island Of Moloka I Here Her Life Is Supposed To End But Instead She Discovers It Is Only Just Beginning Disappointing.Underwhelming.Squandered potential.Lacks soul.These are a few of the things that immediately sprang to mind after finishing Molika i After reading several 2 star reviews here on Goodreads by gifted reviewers then myself, I really can t add much without becoming repetitive.Suffice it to say, this book had so much potential So much possibility And although a vast majority of readers thought it met and exceeded those parameters, for me it fell flat.I wanted my soul to be moved while reading this I wanted my heart to be engaged I wanted to feel real sympathy for these fictional characters played out against a very non fictional aspect of history Instead, I yawned frequently I looked to see how many pages were left I got tired of the innumerable instances of info dumping and plotline wrangling in order to create the info dump moment I thought of how a writer like my favorite M.M Kaye would have handled this scene or that situation I got frustrated over the shallow writing and the contemporary feel of a story that was supposed to take place over 100 years ago And finally, I closed the book and was sad that what could have been an awesome story fell flat for me expecially since I ve been on a run of mediocre reads lately.This is a minority opinion but it s mine Hope it s a better read for others. St Martin s Press recently offered me the book Daughter of Moloka i for review, which I accepted However, when I read its synopsis, it hearkened back to its preceding tome, Moloka i , which was a huge bestseller originally published in 2003 As of this writing, the original book is on sale for kindle at 2.99 on , so I decided to purchase it and read it prior to reading its sequel I expected this to be a quality book because of its rave reviews, and I wasn t disappointed I don t usually gravitate towards books that take place in island settings, but the richness of the story enveloped me regardless This story is about a little girl named Rachel Kalama who lived in Honolulu in the late 1800s She was just seven years old, the favorite daughter of her father Henry Henry was a sailor who would go on expeditions lasting for months, and would always bring Rachel back a special doll to add to her collection Rachel s idyllic life takes a violent turn when the Health Inspector who visits schools discovers that Rachel has leprosy During this time, anyone found to have contracted leprosy is removed from the island and thus their family They are taken to a special settlement on another Hawaiian island designated for leprosy patients Franciscan nuns run a home for the children where they are lovingly cared for Often times, a person would live the rest of their life at this settlement There is a church, general store, and rations of food meted out to the settlement s occupants People are provided homes to live in The nuns clean wounds and change bandages, but there are also doctors on the settlement who try valiantly to come up with treatments to stave off the advancement of leprosy At first glance, one could be startled and even horrified to witness some of the facial deformities, but after living amongst these people for awhile, they just became people you were comfortable being aroundthe new normal There were varied forms and intensities of this disease for some people their sores were hidden in discreet places like on a thigh or an ankle in others, their faces and digits on their hands and feet would be ravaged by the disease One physician had a theory he explored of surgically removing any sores that would appear However, it would take decades before a sulfa based antibiotic was produced that halted the disease in its tracks, much like the cocktail of meds AIDS patients take today that return their lives to a modicum of normalcy The story of Rachel is an epic one it follows her from her childhood home and school to her abrupt and frightening transfer to the leprosy colony at Kalawao, and the many milestones her life advances through until her death It is a story of love, strength, bravery and family I never knew the nuts and bolts of the medical history of leprosy, and this made for a very interesting educational topic throughout the story I am very glad I read this as a precursor to reading the upcoming Daughter of Moloka i Often times you can read a follow up book as a standalone, but having read the original story Moloka i I will approach the next installment with even anticipation. Alan Brennert s Moloka i is a beautifully written and moving tale of a young girl s interaction with a leprosy colony throughout her life time The impacts on her life as she grows older are tremendous and she loses friends and family around her fighting her own battles to survive.The story and characters will tug at your heartstrings and push you into thinking about your own life and the good you have in it If you re able to hear someone else s plight to survive, and you can empathize with such painful scars, you will love this book But beware it can be sad at times.Knowing so much of this is true, and how we as people treat one another, can be hard to swallow It was a different time, and medicine and technology weren t what they are today but still it takes books like these to show us the error of our ways. Update I never wrote a full review of this book I read it before I joined Goodreads Its still a favorite If you ve never read about the ways the community reacted to leprosy during its day this book gives you the experience pretty sad A young girl is removed from her family sent to the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka We meet many vibrant characters on the island and watch Rachel grow up I laughed and cried This story has stayed with me for approx 13 years Wonderful scenes surf boardingbefore surf boards etc Reading Molokai is a readers gift I Just looked at my old little review wishing for Alan to come visit us in the Bay Area.He did Great time I ve been on his personal e mail list with his updates ever since He has a new novel coming out next year He returns to his favorite island Hawaii I loved this book I gave it as a gift to at least 4 of 5 friends A beautiful story Our Goodreads woman s group has voted to read Molokai for next month May my birthday month I look forward to our engaging discussions It would be very cool if Alan Brennert could join us I m hoping to hear him speak next year in the Bay Area when he introduces his new book in 2013 , He put a request in to speak in our area Hope so GREAT man who loves The Islands. One of my favorite books, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, delves into the crazy idea that people don t have to be miserable when the world around them is Moloka i is another such book The message life isn t over until it s over.Separated from everything dear to her, the heroine of this book, Rachel, learns at a young age that life can still provide her with simple joys and profound fulfillment And though she spends many moments peeking into the abyss of despair, she also spends moments rescuing others from the black chasm of regret.She encounters those who choose to allow their circumstances to define them, bitterness festering into hatred, until they are a shell of a human She meets those who allow bitterness to overcome them despite the blessings and freedom she has longed so desperately for This novel highlights that the human race is endowed with the ability to choose happiness or to choose despair God didn t give man wings He gave him the brain and the spirit to give himself wings, counsels Rachel s friend Just as He gave us the capacity to laugh when we hurt, or to struggle on when we feel like giving up I ve come to believe that how we choose to live with pain, or injustice, or death is the true measure of the Divine within us Some choose to do harm to themselves and others Others bear up under their pain and help others to bear it This historical novel chronicles the lives of those who lived on the island of Moloka i a colony of lepers who are outcast from their families, friends and the lives that were once commonplace At times the colony is attended to and kept clean and up to date At times, it is in ruins and neglected by the various governments who fly their flags on it s shore And mirroring the settlement are people who can choose whether they have come there to watch their life fall into ruin or whether they have gone there to discover a new, if unexpected, life.When Rachel first lands on the shores as a young child, she turns away, sickened, from the people who greet her with smiles Later she learns to accept and love these people She also learns to accept herself and the trials that have been handed to her Friends called out to her the surf beckoned to her her horse, on seeing her, happily nuzzled her neck This was life, and if some things were kapu or forbidden , others weren t she had to stop regretting the ones that were and start enjoying the ones that were not This novel is also threaded with themes of religion, culture, family life and politics Each piece flows together seamlessly, making this a novel that I would heartily recommend to others.First words Later, when memory was all she had to sustain her, she would come to cherish it Old Honolulu as it was then, as it would never be again Note because of several graphic scenes, I would not recommend this book for a young audience Although frankly, most books I read are not geared toward a young audience Moloka i is a book that sums up for me why I love historical fiction I need to learn something with each book that I read and and I love my history to read like fiction and with Moloka i you get all these wonderful elements and I really enjoyed this novel and I had thought from reading the blurb that this was going to be a depressing read and but Alan Brennert has a way of telling a story and getting the point across without dragging the Novel down and making it depressing I loved the way Brennert deals with human tragedy of both the patients and the families, I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel as I felt their sadness but also their joy and achievements I love the picture that Brennert painted of the Island, the setting and atmosphere is so real and I was able to conjure up images of the Island in my head and that s when you know you are going to love a story.The characters in this novel are wonderful and real, I loved all of them and how they became a community who watched out and cared for each other and dealt with sadness and loss everyday and yet lead full lives for themselves.I enjoyed learning about the history of Hawaii and feel the author did a great job in researching this book.I really enjoyed this novel its historical fiction at its best. Rating 3.75 of fiveThe Publisher Says 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 My Review This historical novel is about a time and a place most of us don t pay a lot of attention to Hawaii is a state now, fifty three years of statehood, but there are many Hawaiians who don t feel like they re American, only Hawaiian and that s enough for them The USA might rule over Hawaii, but its contributions to Hawaii s history are recentnot yet 150 years out of over 1,000 of historyand, if there is any justice in this world, ephemeral.Part of that contribution is told in this angering, awful tale of the injustices once thought unremarkable that were the lot of mixed race Hawaiians, as well as the pragmatic but inhumane exile of lepers from their lives and families to the island of Moloka i Rachel is our heroine, a child taken from home and family because of leprosy Her life on Molokai, from childhood to death, is full, and rich, and replete with love it s also terribly heart breakingly sad, as all lives are, with loss and sacrifice and connections made late, too late, that can never be made what they were meant to be.Rachel s daughter Ruth, at Rachel s funeral, meditates on what self sacrifice gave her, and cost her, at the end of the book I m lucky, you see I had two mothers One gave life to me one raised me But they both loved me You know, some people don t even get that once It took me a while to say the words I love you to my birth mother It was a different kind of love than I felt for my adoptive mother , but founded on the same things There s only one disadvantge, really, to having two mothers, Ruth admitted You know twice the lovebut you grieve twice as much p382, US hardcover edition I had a mother I wasn t fond of, I had a stepmother I was fond of, and I had superlative good fortune in having older female friends who mothered me and supported me in ways my own mother would not have wanted, or been able, to do I ve grieved the various losses as they ve happened, and wondered what it would mean to grieve one mother, one time, with one whole and undivided heart But it s when I read this passage again that I realize my heart wasn t divided It was multiplied, many many times, by the gift of so much love and kindness I received from them So for Jan, and Irene, and Jo, and Ninaall gone but oneI thank you again for helping form who I am I refer to your examples when I am in doubt I keep working to be like each of you in giving than I m asked for.For Alan Brennert, thank you good sir for your ever and always timely reminder that love makes families as much as birth does.This is obviously a novel that went to the root of my experience in the world, but it s not by any means a perfect novel It s not hugely beautiful, it s instead heartfelt and deeply experienced It s sentimental, in a good way, and it s also got a healthy dose of sentimentality in a bad way But on balance, reading through the pages, my thoughts overruled the rolling of my eyes as I felt my way through the life of Rachel the mixed race leper Her world, and her places in it, were evoked fully in Brennert s somewhat heavy prose Pages did not fly up to meet my fingers, they waited for me to come and turn them with the stolid stodgy heaviness of poistickier and heavier than potatoes, not quite adhesive enough to be glue.So don t go into this read thinking the linguistic arabesques will delight and amaze you in their lightness and nimbleness, and the rich, satisfying prose carving a truthful, worthwhile woodcut of a story will reward you. Reading this book contained and gave me absolutely everything I love about reading It encompasses everything I love about the reading process I loved it so much I know I won t be able to write a coherent or worthy review there s no way for me to do this story justice, except to recommend it to many, many people I know, something I ve already started to do.Not only couldn t I conceive of not giving it 5 stars, it also easily made my favorites shelf.It s an outstanding book Anything accurate I say will sound like hyperbole, I am sure.I cried with emotion than I have for all but another handful of books.It s a book to savor It s completely absorbing It s very hard to put down Great storytelling It s heartbreaking, heartwarming, there s lots of pathos, but there is also plentiful humor, including humor that often comes unexpectedly, at least for me many times during some of the most poignant moments, I d find something hilarious I chuckled a lot, and smiled at something on nearly every page It broke my heart yet lifted me up I also learned so much, especially about Hawaiian history and culture and about the settlement on Moloka i It s a fabulous book I m so grateful my book club agreed to read this okay, I finally bullied them into it because it had been on my to read shelf for forever, but having to read it for the group forced me to get to it.I cared tremendously about so many of the characters, particularly Rachel Kalama, but really most of them are compelling The settings are so spot on amazing and as I reader I really felt as though I was there, every step of the way.It s about a life lives and never for a moment does the experience of being with them feel less than 100% authentic Rachel every moment with her feels genuine, everything about her and how she is makes sense at every stage of her life.I absolutely loved all the Hawaiian words interspersed throughout, all with their English counterparts right with them so their meaning was always apparent.And, if this historical fiction book couldn t be perfect, there is an author s note at the end where the author lets the reader know a few real people a few characters were based on and lists the sources used for the research done to in general recreate the time and place A stellar job was done, as far as I can tell There are a bunch of books, and information about them, listed in the back of this novel, and I am tempted to read some of them, but honestly, this book sated me even though it was fiction, I feel I couldn t have come away with edification from any non fiction account that s how good this novel is Every time I thought it was amazing, something else happened that made it even so Over and over and over again.I talked with a friend as I was reading this book, and she reminded me that either our fourth grade teacher or his brother, who at the time was a Christian missionary in the Philippines, had worked on Moloka i, working with the residents who had Hansen s disease That bit of information solved a puzzle for me I couldn t remember why when I was nine and ten I was fascinated by and afraid of leprosy, couldn t remember how I even knew about the disease And, I m sure it s one of the reasons this book appealed to me as soon as I knew about it I was fascinated So, yes, I had a predilection for being able to enjoy the subject of this novel But, I highly recommend this book to anyone who ever enjoys historical fiction novels, coming of age novels, cross cultural stories, stories with child protagonists, anyone interested in Hanesn s Disease or the history of medicine, or anything about Hawaii and or its history, and all readers who can appreciate a gripping story. Deeply moving A touching testimony to the human spirit and what ohana really means This one will stay with me.Update The companion novel to this book is being released tomorrow, February 19th If you haven t read this book yet, there s still time You won t regret picking this up, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction.
Alan Brennert is the author of the historical novels Palisades Park, Honolulu chosen one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post , and Moloka i, which won the 2006 Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the Book Club Book of the Year and has sold over 600,000 copies since publication It was also a 2012 One Book, One San Diego selection He has won an Emmy Award and
- 405 pages
- Alan Brennert
- 05 September 2019 Alan Brennert