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Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Moloka'i (2003)

by Alan Brennert

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1,8371443,786 (4.13)135
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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 |
Moloka'i recounts the life of Rachel, a Honolulu girl who contracts leprosy when she is 7 years old. She is eventually transferred to Moloka'i, the island of the lepers, where she and all her fellow sufferers live the lives of outcasts. This book was horrible...and beautiful. It was tragically heartbreaking...and uplifting. Brenner did an amazing job of weaving fiction around the horrid truth and reading this is like a long ride on an emotional roller coaster. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
This work of historical fiction spans the years 1891 to 1970, and centres on a native Hawaiian girl who contracts Hansen's disease (aka leprosy) and grows up in quarantine on the island of Moloka'i.

I've wanted to learn more about the lepers of Moloka'i since I learned about them many years ago. Unfortunately, and despite the obvious extensive research the author did, this book fell flat for me. My biggest complaint that Moloka'i is one of those too-common historical novels where the characters are distinctly 21st century Americans dressed up in historical and cultural costumes. Furthermore, the author didn't engage me in their lives. I was bored throughout the almost 400 pages. ( )
  Nickelini | Feb 10, 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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