Wow. What a stellar book. The characters are still fresh in my mind, even now, almost 2 months after I read it! This is a very well-researched historical fiction, and it gave me new insight into the Hawaiian leprosy epidemic, as well as the annexation of Hawaii by the U.S. It is extremely well-written, engaging, interesting, and insightful. I even cried at the end, and I never cry at books! Definitely pick this book up. You'll never think of Moloka'i the same way again.
This is a really good read. However, I found it to be very depressing throughout the entire book. I set it down about halfway through and took a break from reading it for about two weeks--just to take a breather from the overwhelming heartbreak I felt for Rachel. I would recommend this but be prepared for a heartwrenching story.
This is an excellent book! I can't believe it was written by a man...he gave the main character, Rachel, an amazing voice. A wonderful novel about love, compassion, friendship, life/death, grief...it's a coming-of-age story set against incredible obstacles in Hawaii at the end of the 1800s. My book club read this one month and everyone really enjoyed the story. 5 stars!
When I think historical novel, I think yawn...usually. This book was utterly charming. It begins with a 7 year old girl that has leprosy and the turn of events that ends with her heading to the Leprosy Settlement on Moloka'i. What at first seems to be a death sentence then turns into a beautiful story of family, community, and hope. The characters in this book were truly original and likable. I loved it!
My first 5-star book of the year! In 1890s Hawai'i, young Rachel Kalama is 8 years old when she contracts leprosy and is separated from her family to live in the leper colony on the island of Moloka'i. What might have been a death sentence becomes a triumph of a strong spirit as Rachel determinedly lives her life to the full amidst horror and despair. This novel puts a face and a human voice to the countless affected souls discarded by society in fear of this dreadful disease, and chronicles their battle over the years to not only find a cure but reclaim their dignity from the world that rejected them. While Rachel is fictional, she is set amongst several historical characters and Stein weaves a rich tapestry imbued with deep-seated emotion. Yet despite its moments of harshness and pain it's an easy read, flowing surprisingly fast as it draws in and completely absorbs the reader. Highly recommended.
A very engrossing meld of fact and fiction. The facts cover the creation of the leprosarium on Molokai in the mid 1800's and its history up until the late 1900s. The fiction chronicles the life of a leper from age 6 until her death in her 80's. Recommend!
Touching and sad profile of life for a young Hawaiian girl diagnosed with Leprosy at the turn of the century. An intimate glimpse into the lives of those banished to the leper colony on Moloka'i. You'll enjoy the read even more if you've been to the islands.
I learned a lot about Hawaiian history from reading this book. I love how the novel showcases the humanity of those struck by this horrifiying disease. I shows both the beauty and ugliness of the colony and makes the reader laugh and cry along with the main character, Rachel. After reading this book, I decided that I want to learn more about Hawaiian history and I have added Michener's Hawaii to my TBR.
Thw Washington Post called this a "dazzling historical novel." If you are at all interested in Hawaii, Moloka'i, Father Damien or Kaulupapa this is one wonderful read. Also, I lked it because the central character is female.
This book was wonderful. It is a dazzling historical novel set in Hawaii. This is a perfect book for those that love Hawaii and/or are familiar with its rich history. It is fiction even though the author wrote about a real place and real history. The main character was an ordinary person who had to make such sacrifices. I look forward to reading his next book, "Honolulu".
This was a book I could'nt put down. I was hooked from page one. Everypage I was waiting for the next one to see what would happen. I could feel the trade winds, smell the ocean and feel the sand on my toes. I could also feel the heartbreak of the characters and the joy they found in daily lif., I could see each and everyone of them. I cried at the end, full on tears, and I don't cry when I read books. This is a great book, and I was sucked in.
This was one of the best books I've ever read. Rachel, the main character is sent away at a young age to Molokai because she has leprosy. This story is an amazing testimony to her courage and determination to have a happy life despite her disease.
Moloka'i is a magical story of a little girl growing up under extremely difficult circumstances but learning, through her own perseverence and the love of others, how to make the most of her life and opportunities. It's a sad, but not depressing story, that ends with hope. I loved it.
The topic of this book was fascinating, but the execution of the idea was not. My entire book club did not like the way the book was written, even if we did not mind the subject itself.
In essence, the book is about a girl named Rachel, who we follow from childhood to the grave. She is afflicted with leprosy as a small child and sent to live on the island of Moloka'i, home to the Hawaiian leper colony. She forges relationships with other lepers on the island as well as the nuns who take care of the lepers. In addition, she marries and has a child while on the island.
Some problems with the book:
It took me FOREVER to get really interested in the book because the author interrupts the action in the story for long (and I mean pages long) explanations of things that the reader can either figure out for himself or should have been woven into the narrative.
The research of the author is obvious. It is almost like he typed "1896" into Google and and read what occurred during that year. So, the events of that year made their way into the story. They were not subtly placed into the story either. An astute reader could see that the writer was basically checking them off a list. "Must include these 5 things that started in 1896."
There were a few turns of coincidence that strained my credulity. (Not that as a reader you should never have your credulity strained, but these turns were ridiculous.) The most obnoxious example? A male leper who wants to be a woman. Lo and behold! At one point of the narrative, he grows breasts and has other biological changes. Never mind that there are no other lepers in the story who have this side effect. Everyone else has noses falling off and faces sagging in, arms contorting, and nerve damage--and the one character who wants to be a woman has the side effect he wants!
The side characters (read nearly all of the lepers) are completely interchangeable.
There are a few redeeming qualities to the book: the theme of wanting to travel/have freedom; the Hawaiian culture; some questions about God.
But overall, this book was one I definitely could have passed on.
My Opinion: This is the second time that I have read this book, and I did it for my book club. The first time that I read this book, I gave it FIVE stars and a heart - and I remember bawling my eyes out in multiple places during the story, especially at the end. During this reading, I recognized a few of the flaws in the book which knocked the rating down to four stars. But the story still gripped me, and while I may have cried less I still had tears flowing down my face at the ending.
My Book Club's Opinion: My book club gave it a pretty good review also. Most of the club liked it. One woman loved it as much as I did the first time I read it. Many cried during the book - including our one male member. Only one member found it a slog. She found the prose to be trite, but I should also tell you that this member is a published poet and therefore judges prose more than most readers. The other complaint that she had is one that many of us - including me - agreed with. And that is that the numerous instances of mentions of and character interactions with prominent historical events and figures broke up the flow of the storyline. While many of these events were important, they weren't integrated well into the storyline (with the exception IMO of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which played a key role in the story). But I don't think we need to hear so much about it every time an important invention finally made its way to Moloka'i (moving pictures, the phonograph, electric lights, etc).
But the above criticism is a small one. There is so much else to love about this book. We learn a lot about the island of Moloka'i, Hawaiian culture and Hanson's Disease (which is what leprosy is now called). One of our members has Hawaiian heritage, and she agreed that the story seemed "authentic" to her. And in the end it is a powerful, emotional story of one woman's life and struggles, and the community that developed on the island of Moloka'i.
This is a beautifully written story of Rachel, who is forced to leave her family and live in a leper colony at Moloka'i when she is very young. She spends most of her life there. She deals with the frustration and anger that anyone would feel in this circumstance. As she matures, she becomes more accepting and creates her own family among the community. It's a fantastic read that will have you hooked from the first page.
This amazing story caught me up in the first few pages. We meet seven-year old Rachel Kalama, youngest child in her Honolulu family. When she is discovered to have a small leprous sore on her leg, Rachel is snatched from the bosom of her family and sent first to be "cured" in the Kahili hospital in Honolulu. After a year in Kahili, she is then sent to the Kalaupapa leper colony on Molokai. The story of Rachel and her new family on Molokai is beautiful, inspirational and very uplifting.
Character development is very strong in this story. The figure of Sister Catherine Voorhies was perhaps my favorite of the whole story, as she deals with her own personal demons as well as her own doubts of "Why does God give children leprosy?" This story is so wonderful as Rachel and her new-found 'ohana' (family) rise above their disease and find dignity and love in their isolated home.
One of the most moving and enjoyable books I've read in a very long time.
There are so many positive reviews. Do you need one more to be convinced? This book was so good, that every time I put it down I couldnt wait to get back to the lives and home of my new friends. This was written so well you felt as if you were there. Be prepared for a great non fiction story so deeply steeped in accurate historical events. This book should be on the list of books to read before you die. It is a great piece of literature.
This is an extensively researched historical novel about a leper colony established on one of Hawaii's smaller islands in the late 1800's. The story itself is about a seven year old girl named Rachel who one day finds a red mark, the mark of what was then known as Leprosy, and now known as Hansen's Disease. Rachel is taken away from her family and sent to the colony where she spends the majority of her life, and finds a new family of sorts waiting for her. This is an amazing and moving work of historical fiction. Be forewarned however, that there are many depressing sequences to this book that tend to make the reader despair of this book ever having happy moment. But still an incredible read!
I loved this book! It immediately grabbed my attention and was hard to put down till the end. I feel like I learned a lot about human nature and how terrified we can feel and what lengths we will go to when saving ourselves from a possibly contagious disease.
The characters are very interesting and places described are exotic lands of the past. I would recommend this book to a friend.
Set in Hawaii in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Moloka'i is the story of Rachel Kalama. Rachel is torn from her family and exhaled to Moloka'i after she is diagnosed with leprosy. This book is the story of how she builds a life in the leprosy settlement where she was sent to die. It is a well researched touching story with vibrant characters who embrace life even in the face of death.
Absolutely loved this book,could not put it down! After reading it I googled some facts regarding the Molokai leper colony. I was so pleased to see that the author incorporated real people into this amazing story. He used the actual names of many of the people who dedicated themselves to those unfortunate souls who were taken from their families and sent to this island. All history books should be fictionalized like this one, makes for wonderful, interesting reading! I recommend it 100%
In a typical month I read about 5 to 8 books. I started reading this book at the very end of November, and as of January 2, I haven't even made it to page 150. Every single review I've read on this book was great and I have no idea why I didn't like this book. Passing this one along to someone who will probably enjoy it much more than I did.
I thought this book was wonderfully written. It follows the story of the main character throughout her life -- there is so much detail about both her surroundings as well as her and the other characters that you really feel that you know them. There were several parts that were very emotional for me, and I was sorry to reach the end. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to others.
This has to be one of the best books I have ever read! The story of the leper colony, the stigma of the disease, and the lives of those who worked with the stricken are beautifully intertwined with the fictional characters. It is a book that will make you cry when you realize what people went through and how far we have come in the treatment of this terrible disease. I have recommended this book to many patrons and book club members in the library where I am on staff and their reactions were all the same. They found it to be excellent. It is a great read and I am looking forward to Brennert's next book!
Excellent! The beginning is kind of slow, but stick with it. It's worth it. I will never forget the heroine, Rachel. I learned all kinds of info about Hawaii, Moloka'i, leprosy. It doesn't sound like a promising story, but it is. Very redeeming and thought provoking. I highly recommend this. Our book club read it. Everyone liked it and wanted to know more. Lots of interesting comments, compassion, tears.
For me, this book was too slow of a read although it was a very good story. The historical aspects of the story were interesting as well as heartbreaking at times. I just couldn't get hooked, but wanted to
This book really blew my mind, and has inspired me to read other historical fiction about Hawai'i. My favorite style of story, a strong female character, in this case, a young girl, who faces unbelievable adversity and maintains an uplifting outlook. The author has really done his homework; the story contains riveting details about Hawaiian history, culture, attitudes, and experiences during the turn of the century and beyond. Highly recommend.
This is why I read! I knew absolutely nothing about this time and place but was transported entirely. I loved Rachel- she became so real to me. A wonderful book, I can't say enough about how well written it is. I just put Honolulu by the same author on my wish list.
A very sad story at times, but I enjoyed reading about the characters' lives, as well as learning about the historical aspects of the time (1890s-mid 20th century). The end notes were also very interesting, including a variety of primary sources that the author referred to for historical accuracy in his fictional narrative.
Amazing book--what a story! The main character will grab you right from the start and never let go. I will confess that I spent quite a bit of the book crying (on an airplane no less) but it was so worth it! It is a great lesson in history, humanity and understanding --I highly recommend it!
I enjoyed this book a great deal. My favorite fiction books are ones with interesting historical information and this one did not disappoint. I learned how little I knew about what went on in Hawaii and the quarantining of the people struck down with leprosy. Fascinating, heart-breaking story. But also inspiring and a great testimony to the resiliency of humans is the face of trauma.
Moloka'i is about a leprosy colony in the Hawaiian islands, on the island of Molokai. There is sadness and joy weaved together throughout this emotional read, but it definitely one of my all-time favorites.
Early in the story, a young Rachael is taken from her family and sent to the Molokai leper colony in the 1890's. Rachael is the youngest ever to be sent to this colony and struggles with loneliness and misses her family immensely. Rachael ends up living most of her life in the colony, until treatments started emerging in the 1930's that stopped the ravaging effects of the bacteria.
I have seen other reviews that have mentioned this book is sad and no doubt about it, there were times where I found myself racked with sobs, but there are many pieces of the story that are also absolutely beautiful. Rachael's resilience after so many terrible events, can be encouragement to anyone.
Prior to reading this book, I knew that Leprosy colonies, now called Hansen's Disease (HD), existed in India, but I had never heard of a leprosy colony in Hawaii. I also thought that HD did not exist anymore, but I was definitely wrong about that. Recent studies indicate 10% of the population is at risk of getting HD, but the treatments now available prevent people from becoming deformed. Some scientists believe that leprosy is tied to dirty living conditions and others have found links between Parkinson's and Hansen's.
When I took a gander at the data on new cases recorded, it seems as though person's with darker skin pigmentation may be more susceptible, since the highest amount of new cases are in southeast Asia and large areas of South America and Africa. This could also have something to do with limited medical resources, as I've heard stories from a friend who is part of the Acupuncture Relief Project in Nepal, there is something like one doctor for every 100,000 people in that country.
I loved this book and so did everyone in my book club. I learned so much about Hawaiian history. The story line takes you on an emotional roller coaster. To me it is a story of hope despite incredible challenges. Looking forward to reading more books by this author.
I had had a little bit of dry spell and then I picked this up and started it and loved it from the first page. Really good and a fascinating glimpse of history involving leprosy in Hawaii and the island of Moloka'i. A wonderful read.
How does one write about a book that so imprints the heart and mind? There is love, ignorance and cruel treatment of the less fortunate. Rachel is a six-year-old who has been diagnosed with leprosy. She doesn't understand what is happening - only that her uncle has leprosy, too, and that her parents can no longer be with her. As she is taken away for treatment, she cries and screams for her loving family. Treatment is unsuccessful and she is moved to a leprosy treatment community to isolate her from the healthy. In Kalaupapa, the isolated leper colony on the island of Moloka'i, she finds love from her Uncle Pono and his lover, other children with leprosy, and Sister Catherine (Ruth). She grows up in Kalaupapa, falls in love and marries a kind young man. They have a daughter which they name Ruth after Sister Catherine. As lepers they must give up their healthy daughter for adoption if they can find no family member to adopt her for their own. The story weaves throughout Rachel's life and she witnesses the changes, both political and modernization, that come to Hawaii as well as Kalaupapa. Many of the characters are based on real personalities but that of Rachel is a combination of several. I rarely shed tears reading a book, but I foun them flowing freely as I read this story. I can make no higher recommendation than this - DON'T MISS THIS STORY.
The back cover begins, "This richly imagined novel..." which it an apt description of this engrossing, factually-based book on the leprosy outbreak and subsequent patient confinement in Hawaii. It follows the life of Rachel, a young leprosy sufferer, as she endures through the years.
In 1891, five-year-old Rachel Kalama is a young and carefree girl living in Hawaii. She spends her days playing with her siblings and friends and looks forward to steamer day â when her father comes home from his work on a steamer boat.
But life will not remain idyllic for Rachel. Soon her favorite Uncle, Pono, is sent away to Moloka'i because he has contracted leprosy and the only way that was known to prevent the spread of the disease was to quarantine the people. It also created an intense stigma for the family of the victim. Rachel does not understand why her uncle is gone and misses him immensely.
Inspectors come into her school on a regular basis looking for children who have developed leprosy to send away. One day, when she is seven, Rachel notices she has a sore that won't heal. She does her best to hide it, but it is eventually found and she is sent to Moloka'i.
This causes much sorrow and chaos in her life and family. Rachel is initially allowed live with her uncle (who has been divorced by his wife) and the woman he lives with. The nuns who run the home for the girls under 16 are not happy about this and soon order Pono to allow Rachel to live with the other girls to protect her from the immorality outside the home.
Rachel is initially not happy about this. But she soon befriends the other girls and, most especially, one of the nuns who becomes integral in helping Rachel live through the happy and sad times that are to come.
This is a very moving and endearing story. While a massive change like this might seem like the end of life for most, it's a beginning and an opening to a whole new world for Rachel.
In the 1890's, a young girl is wrenched from her family and sent to Moloka'i, the leper colony for Hawaii. Spanning decades, the book follows her as she forges new bonds with others suffering from the same disease and with a young nun caring for those afflicted.
Of my book club, two of us thoroughly enjoyed the book (including me), two didn't like it, and the other four were so-so. But after reading several award-winning books that were rather depressing (I'm starting to think that crushing tragedy is one of the criteria that literary award winners must meet), I found that the author treated a grim topic delicately and found a way for his characters to cope and to find some joy in their lives.
Bottom line? I cried twice while reading the book, believed the ending decades of the protagonist's life were a bit rushed, and have thought about the book quite a bit since finishing it several weeks ago. I'd recommend it.
This novel spans the 80-year life of Rachel, who was born in Honolulu and lived most of her life in involuntary exile on Molokai as a leper. The book is rich in the history of Hawaii and of the medical condition now known as Hansen's disease. In one of the most poignant passages, Sister Catherine, a nun serving the afflicted on Molokai, states that how we choose to live our lives is a measure of the Diviine within each of us. These words resonated with me as I read this book about people who were forced to make decisions about how they lived in a very difficult situation.
Moloka'i is easily one of my all-time favorite books. It has everything: a beautiful setting, talented author prose to illuminate it, rich emotions, and a wonderful main character, Rachel, that everyone can relate to in some way, if not all ways.
Wish I had to read it all over again. Met the Author in Hawaii by accident and told him just how much his book has meant to me and everyone that I know that has read it. A don't miss story... Best A+ recommendation I could give a book. Honolulu also by Alan Brennert (why he was at the bookstore for a signing) was great as well! I have a gal pal from a book club in Hawaii who gives this to every visitor who stays with her.
When I started Moloka'i, the only thing I knew about it was that it was consistently popular when I worked at a book store. I picked it up a few months ago at a thrift store for 99 cents thinking can't go wrong with this price'.
I rarely read books like this. By this' I mean regular, popular fiction with no genre theme attached. I have always drifted towards the alternatives - science fiction, horror, sometimes fantasy. I've also loved classic literature since I picked up my first Dickens. But modern fiction has never really been my jam. And it's interesting to note that on the few times I do pick up one, like in the case of Moloka'i, I am utterly blown away and find myself falling deeply in love.
I am usually always skeptical of a man writing a girl's or woman's journey, and so when I realized this was going to be Rachel Kalama's life journey written by a white, American man, my skepticism was working overtime. Brennert writes Rachel with such a clarity and such an understanding of love and loss that it's hard to believe he didn't know the (fictional) woman personally. I guess he did, though, I mean she was born inside of his head.
Rachel's character development is so strong and so tight that you don't even miss the chunks of years of her life that Brennert skips over. It is clear from her voice and attitude exactly what those years held for her and you never feel like you've missed out. With each chapter and cluster of years of her experience, you feel more and more like you know Rachel almost as intimately as you know yourself and, in turn, you feel her hopes and her losses almost as deeply as she.
Rachel Aouli Kalama Utagawa has earned her way into my favorite all-time characters of literature.
This is an amazing book. I bought my copy in the gift shop at the Kalaupapa leper colony which I toured when I visited Moloka'i. Sat on the beach later that day, tears streaming down my face as I read. Yes, it is a dark story, but Rachel's courage and spirit shine through, so in the end, you are left with a sense of hope. I plan on re-reading this and suggesting it to my book club.
This is a compelling story of the leper colony in Moloka'i, of the Hawaiian Islands. It is based on a true leper colony. It gives a lot of information on lepersy, how it was treated and how the people lived in this closed society.
The first chapter is a little slow, it's giving history of the area and background into the characters. Stick with it because this story picks up in the second chapter and then steams ahead. It's been a long time since I've read a book, covered my mouth with my hand and said aloud "Oh, no!" It's a quick read and a good read. Don't stop at the end. Read the Author's Notes and gain more insight into the leper colony at Molokai. I knew it was there but these people lived lives that I hadn't given any thought to. I might just read this one again in a few years.
I was told to read this by a friend who said the characters are so real you get to really know them all. She was right. it is the story of a little girl condemned to live in a leper colony and all the people she gets to know along the way. Fiction based on fact, it is a wonderful story of spirit.