Saturday, February 2, 2008

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

After about 800 people recommended this book to me, I finally got the chance to sit down and read it! This is a very intense story, one that is definitely not for those who love happy endings, but it was a very enjoyable read filled with history and a sweet love story.

Moloka'i begins with young Rachel, a native Hawaiian residing with her large family, contracting leprosy. Taking place in the late 1800's, when leprosy was still a very new disease and one that was greatly feared, Rachel and her family are terrified that something will happen to her once word of her contracting the illness gets out. Her mother is able to hide her illness for close to a year before the health inspector becomes aware and takes Rachel away.

Forced to leave her home and is sent to live on the island of Moloka'i. The island has been set up as a quarantined area for those that have contracted leprosy, where the infected are forced to spend the rest of their lives. She resides in a girl's home, with many other young girls her age, and though Rachel's symptoms remain mild while she is young, she witnesses many of her close friends become deformed, extremely ill, and eventually die.

She eventually meets a man that she falls in love with, one also infected with leprosy, and they have a lovely marriage, seemingly meant to live together. They soon become pregnant and what should be a miracle turns tragic and the couple are forced to give up their only child simply because they are lepers.

The plot goes on, as Rachel's sad life does, until she is eventually cured of the disease and allowed to leave Moloka'i. Though this may seem to be exactly what she had been waiting for all these years, Rachel is afraid to leave, Moloka'i being all she has known for almost her entire life. However, she realizes the importance of making contact with her long estranged family and hopefully finding her now grown daughter, resulting in her final release from the leper island.

Moloka'i is incredibly rich in history and the Hawaiian language. I learned a lot about not only what it was like to live in Hawaii during the nineteenth century, but also about the Hawaiian language and of course, leprosy. I never realized it had taken so long to find a cure for what now seems like an easily treatable disease. Overall this was an enjoyable book, though a bit wordy in areas.


Callista said...

I want to read this one so bad, It's been recommended to me many times too but it's not at my library and I can't afford to buy books just to read them once.

Amanda said...

Callista, try doing an interlibrary loan through another library. Sometimes you have to pay (my library charges $1), but that's how I get a lot of my books!

Esther said...

Have you heard of the "The Pearl Diver" by Jeff Talarigo? It's the story of a leprosy colony in Japan in the late 1940' was the book that put Moloka'i on my "to buy" list.

trish said...

Interesting review. My book club is reading it. I loved it, though at least one other person feels ho hum about it. I'll be reviewing it myself after my book club has met.

Jeane said...

This sounds like a very good book! Thanks for bringing it to my attention with your review.