Home » Historical Fiction » Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

I was trying to figure out a way to explain just what it was about this book that made it so glorious. Then I found it, hidden away at the bottom of page 372. “With wonder and a growing absence of fear she realized, I am more than I was an hour ago.”

That sensation really does sum it up. “I am more than I was an hour ago.” It is a feeling that is woven through every page, colors every event. It takes something so tragic, a story about a child taken from her family and sent to live in the leper colony on Moloka’i and all the death and pain that can and does result, and transforms it. This is a story about growing and evolving, about living.

The writing is beautiful. The first few times the marks of leprosy were described in an almost nonchalant fashion, the horror and vague nausea they inspired, quickly faded. This was the background, the catalyst but not the story.

Apart from a story of the experience of lepers at that time, the late 1800’s moving forward, it is also the story of a culture in upheaval. It is the transition of Hawaii into a United States possession and the movement from traditional religion to Christianity. Absolutely fascinating was reading about the events of Peal Harbor from the point of view of a colony of quarantined lepers. The first time they saw a moving picture. How excited they were to get electricity.

Leprosy sets the scene, but does not color the story. It is always there, as Rachel grows to an adult away from her family, gaining new family on Moloka’i, but it is more about the people than the disease.

A beautiful book. I think everyone should give it a read. I am more than I was before reading.


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