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Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Moloka'i (2003)

by Alan Brennert

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1,8501463,743 (4.13)135
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    The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (akblanchard)
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Molokai – Alan Brennert
4 stars

Rachel Kalama is a typical 5 year-old girl. She is mischievous, imaginative and affectionate. She exasperates her mother, fights with her sister and delights her father….. until she is diagnosed with leprosy. In the late 19th century, leprosy is a death sentence. With no known cure or adequate treatment, the only preventative measure available is a drastic form of quarantine. Rachel is separated from her family and removed to the leper colony on Molokai.

Fortunately, it is not as grim as Rachel (and this reader) feared it might be. Rachel adjusts to a new life. There is a great deal of heartbreak and suffering, but she also builds a life with an extended family and friends. In the new century there are improvements in the care and treatment of the disease and eventually an effective cure.

I enjoyed this book and I do recommend it, but I cannot give it 5 stars. It’s a great story. I love that Brennert wanted to tell about Molokai from a Hawaiian viewpoint. So much was done to native people without their consent or involvement. My problem is that having established this viewpoint, I feel Brennert didn’t do enough with it. Only Rachel and Sister Catherine had any real depth of character. I wanted to know more about Haleola and her native beliefs. Leilani was a fascinating character. Brennert could have done so much more with her life history and the role she, and others like her, played in preserving traditions. Most of all, I think he missed a great opportunity by just glancing at the deep religious conflicts between the native beliefs and the western missionary/charity workers. I know the conflict is there, implicit throughout the story, but it felt as if the author and the characters kept backing away from it.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 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. ( )
  brangwinn | May 16, 2016 |
By-the-numbers ‘exotic’ historical fiction about the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Moloka‘i at the end of the nineteenth century. The language is an ungainly mixture of anachronistic modernisms (‘she gave him the stink-eye’), boring clichés (‘harsh glare’, ‘warm glow’), and metaphorical flourishes that fall flat (‘Dorothy felt something wet fall on her leg, unexpected as a drop of rain on a sunny day’). Brennert is a veteran screenwriter for shows like L.A. Law, and much of the dialogue here performs the sort of brisk exposition that is acceptable in a well-directed TV film but which feels rather artless and clumsy in running prose. I'm sounding overly harsh here – the book isn't offensively bad, and people who generally enjoy this kind of novel will definitely get more enjoyment out of this one than I did. Brennert has done his research, I'll say that, but in my case I quickly realised that I'd rather be reading the books in the bibliography than the novel he turned them into; I bailed after a hundred pages, which is pretty unusual for me. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Apr 27, 2016 |
This was my first book by Alan Brennert and it certainly lived up to the reviews. I remember very little from my U.S. History about the leper colony on Moloka’i, but the author brought Rachel’s heartbreaking childhood to life, drawing me into her world as she fought to hold on to hope. I also liked how the author dropped tidbits of history into the story without affecting the overall pace. I ended up loving it!

This is definitely on the tear-jerker list. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so many times over a book, but I can’t say that I’m sorry I picked it up. It was an obvious five star read for me.

Rachel is a mere 6 years old when she’s taken from her family. Placed in isolation at a hospital in Honolulu and diagnosed with leprosy, she’s not allowed to touch her parents, who are only able to visit when her father isn’t out to sea. When Rachel is 7, her worst fears come to life. She’s shipped away to the island of Moloka’i where she will live out the remainder of her life in exile. The book tells us those with the separating sickness go there to die, but Rachel’s story is not a short one. There is more heartbreak in her future, but as she grows and comes to accept her situation, a fierce hope blossoms that she will someday be cured and leave the island.

The first half of this book was absolutely heart wrenching. I think what kept me going was the relationship between Rachel and her father, his constant love and support made the story bearable for me. He became my favorite character. At about the midway point, I was hesitant to keep going, but I’m so glad that i did. I really enjoyed teenage Rachel and the relationship with Sister Catherine. It was interesting to see the story from a caretaker’s perspective, too.

Rachel was a woman of great courage and strength. She learned to live each day to the fullest, regardless of the sadness and death that surrounded her. The ending was extremely satisfying and put a smile on my face. I’ll definitely read more from this author! ( )
  Becky_McKenna | Mar 10, 2016 |
This is a tale of one woman's life from her childhood through her old age and the realities of having being diagnosed with leprosy at a young age. The story takes place in Hawaii starting in the late 1800s. I really enjoyed this book, but there were times when the book was really slow and I found myself wondering why the author hadn't just ended the book at the last crisis. Then something new would happen, and I would find myself engrossed in her life again. I enjoyed the historical aspects of understanding about leprosy within the Hawaiian people and their policy of segregation. The stigma must have been horrifying! I enjoyed the characters that Alan Brennert created! The resolution of all my questions about family was gratifying - from the adopted daughter, to her immediate family, to her Moloka'i family. ( )
  MelAnnC | Feb 28, 2016 |
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For the people of Kalaupapa
For Edgar and Charlotte Wittmer
my 'ohana
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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.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312304358, Paperback)

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" (mostlyfiction.com).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Seven-year-old Rachel is forcibly removed from her family's 1890s Honolulu home when she contracts leprosy and is placed in a settlement, where she loses a series of new friends before new medical discoveries enable her to reenter the world.

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