A Novel

eBook - 2010
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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.

Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group


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Jun 16, 2020

Moloka'i is a beautiful novel. I really liked how successful the author was at "world-building," and not just because it is based on true historic events. I could relate so well with Rachel, the main character, and that just made reading the book so much more engaging.

May 27, 2020

One of the better historical fiction books I have read in years. It is a thick book with smaller print but I read it in 4 days because I could not put it down. I am waiting to read The Daughter of Malaki i'.

Sep 14, 2019

Interesting story

Jul 14, 2019

There's a fascinating, revealing, and most likely heartbreaking book waiting to be written about the subject of this novel - the leper colony founded by Father Damien on Moloka'i in Hawaii. Too bad this wasn't it. The fault was clearly in the writing - Brennert is from the "and then this happened, and then this, then this" school of writing; he just doesn't have the skills necessary to author a compelling, character-driven story. A big disappointment because I had heard good things about this.

Jun 20, 2019

Heart wretching story set in Hawaii's Moloka'i leprosy colony. Brennert's characters are very believable with emotions, actions and beliefs of the society in that time frame. Brennert's research is fantastic.

Feb 25, 2019

Absolutely loved this book, doubly so because I am a Molokai girl, born & raised there with family members and businesses still there. Growing up there, we were never able to do more than see Kalaupapa from the lookouts high above because children were not allowed, so it was very refreshing to read this story. Reading about the places, the Hawaiian names, expressions, and traditions all took me back to the islands that I left just 10 years ago.

Feb 05, 2019

I read this great book for the 2nd time with my book club and liked it as much as i did the first time i read it. It has lots of true facts and people in it and the story moves along even though it is a hard story to learn about. I would say read this book if you like history and Hawaii.

If you’ve ever been a member of a book club, you would know that it’s rare when everyone gets to like the same book. Usually, there are opposing opinions. Not with this book! A dozen of people gave it 4 stars out of 5. Impressive! We thought it was well written, easy to read, interesting, based on historical facts which allowed us all to learn something new or expand what bits and pieces we already knew.

The novel focuses on the leprosy epidemic of late 19th and early 20th century in Hawaii. The disease was little understood at the time and was spreading so much that the government naturally decided to quarantine the sick. However, the quarantine part was rather radical. People with disease were sent away to an island and that was their doomed, last destination since there were no effective treatments available. Even more disheartening is that children were treated the same as adults – they were sent away too, torn away from their families. The main character in the book is Rachel Kalama. She gets to be sent away when she is 6 years old. The story follows her life, as she grows up, and faces various challenges. The ending is not all ‘cakes and roses’, but it’s not bad at all and you are left in a positive mood regardless of a heavy subject. (Submitted by Mariya)

Sep 17, 2018

This book is now one of my favorites of all time. Being Hawaiian, I've always been interested in Moloka'i and Father Damien. This story was told from the viewpoint of a little girl who was taken from her family and sent to Moloka'i. The author enables the reader to experience the emotions of the little girl, as well as her family. It was upsetting and heartwrenching, but that's partly what made it such a good read. Rather than being inundated with dry facts, the reader is take on an emotional roller ride. I highly recommend this book.

Aug 02, 2016

Really enjoyed this moving story about Rachel and her quest to live life with her Leprosy. This terrible disease tears her family apart and as a young girl she must make choices that no young girl is usually faced with. Mr. Brennert again has used factual accounts during this grim time in Hawaiian history to place his fictional characters.
This is the author's 3 book I've read and would recommend them all.

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Apr 02, 2013

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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