Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: "Moloka'i" by Alan Brennert

From Goodreads:  This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more 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 spirit.

Rachel 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.

With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death. Such is the warmth, humor, and compassion of this novel that "few readers will remain unchanged by Rachel's story".
My Thoughts:  I know that I always say 'Why didn't I read this sooner?' but this is one of those times where I am really kicking myself.  I bought this book a year ago and have kept putting off reading it because I wasn't sure whether or not I would like it.  Well, I am officially an idiot for putting it off because this is one of the best books I have read this year.  It is completely different than any other work of historical fiction that I have read and I think that is part of the reason I loved it so much.  The setting is fantastic (who doesn't love Hawaii?) and the story is absolutely heart-breakingly beautiful.  The writing is so good; Brennert's descriptions of the people of Moloka'i and their surroundings made me feel as though I was watching the whole story happen instead of just reading it.  Rachel's story brought me to tears on more than one occaision both because it was at times so sad and at others so joyful.  I haven't had a story evoke that much emotion from me in long time.  In addition to a great story, this book is full of great characters all of whom seemed so human and real.  Rachel was a wonderfully well-developed character; there were times where it seemed as though you could feel what she was feeling.  The things she had to deal with her throughout her life were horrific but she handled everything with such grace.  I also loved how the idea of family played such a huge role in the story.  There was an emphasis on the idea that a family doesn't always mean blood relatives and that you can really create a loving family in a bad situation.

Honestly, until reading this book, I never realized that there had been a leper colony in the Hawaiian islands or that leprosy was even an issue in Hawaii in the 19th and 20th centuries.  This book may have been fiction but it opened my eyes to historical events that I never knew existed.  I feel that since Hawai'i is part of the US, I really should know about events like this.  I will be adding the island of Moloka'i to my growing list of things I need to read about further.  In closing, this is a REALLY great book that can be enjoyed by all, not just fans of historical fiction. Go read it!  5 stars.


  1. I read this book a couple of years ago when I was in Hawaii on my honeymoon. I loved it and wished I had had the time to visit Moloka'i as I believe it is now a site of remembrance.

    1. I have never been to Hawaii but when I go, I would like to visit Moloka'i.


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