A NoveleBook - 2010
Young Rachel Kalama, growing up in idyllic Honolulu in the 1890s, is part of a big, loving Hawaiian family, and dreams of seeing the far-off lands that her father, a merchant seaman, often visits. But at the age of seven, Rachel and her dreams are shattered by the discovery that she has leprosy. Forcibly removed from her family, she is sent to Kalaupapa, the isolated leper colony on the island of Moloka'i.
In her exile she finds a family of friends to replace the family she's lost: a native healer, Haleola, who becomes her adopted "auntie" and makes Rachel aware of the rich culture and mythology of her people; Sister Mary Catherine Voorhies, one of the Franciscan sisters who care for young girls at Kalaupapa; and the beautiful, worldly Leilani, who harbors a surprising secret. At Kalaupapa she also meets the man she will one day marry.
True to historical accounts, Moloka'i is the story of an extraordinary human drama, the full scope and pathos of which has never been told before in fiction. But Rachel's life, though shadowed by disease, isolation, and tragedy, is also one of joy, courage, and dignity. This is a story about life, not death; hope, not despair. It is not about the failings of flesh, but the strength of the human spirit.
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Moloka'i is a period book in Hawaii set from the 1890s to 1970. The book is about Rachel, who contracts leprosy in the 1890s, and is exiled to the island of Moloka'i. She is only 5 years old when she is diagnosed and her family is devastated. However, she does find joy in meeting up with her Uncle Pono at the island and makes new friends. The novel details the passing of the decades where Rachel meets new friends, loves and adventures. It also details the tragic moments of her life. Her best friend is Sister Catherine who helps her through the rough patches. The book wasn't much to my taste but I do trend toward books with lots of tragedy and drama and little happiness. However, the real annoyance of the novel was the constant description of the landscape. I understand the author was attempting to give the readers a flavor of the exoticness of the islands of Hawaii but pages of this lyrical description became boring. This is the reason why the book merits a low 3 stars. However, for those readers who don't mind a whole lot of description, I do recommend this book as a good accounting of the stigma of leprosy at the time and how one wonderful woman overcame this stigma with a great attitude and how she was able to shape a good life despite this tragic diagnosis.
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