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Friday, May 11, 2012
Book Review: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Rachel Kalama and her family live in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Her father is a merchant seaman and is gone for several months at a time, when he is home their brief time together is cherished. Her mother as the primary parent cares for her and her 2 brothers and older sister Sarah. Their world of "old Honolulu" is an exotic paradise in the late 1800's. The tourism and military presence has not been established yet. The undisturbed landscape and beaches are tranquil and luscious. Rachel's world with the exception of her often absent father, is like heaven. When Rachel is 7 years old her uncle Pono is sent to a leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Pono is her father's brother. Afterwards, Rachel has 2 rosy skin spots that are found on her body. Her mother tries various home treatments, fear rises in her heart. Eventually Rachel is taken from her family and sent to a hospital for observation. After nearly a year of observation she is sent with a group of other people by boat to the leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Rachel is at first housed with her uncle Pono, but in her best interest she is moved to a Catholic girls home.
Rachel's full life is told in the pages of Moloka'i. Her account to me, is an epic story. Not only does it span her life, but it tells a broad story of historical events on the islands of Oahu and Moloka'i.
The leprosy settlement on Moloka'i--Kalaupapa has been inhabited by Leper's since about 1865. Several years later a Father Damien came to the island and settlement in order to minister to the colony. While he was there schools and farms and a community town was firmly established. By the time Rachel had arrived Father Damien had died, but Catholic Sister's remained to care for children and those that were advanced in leprosy. The compassionate love of the Sister's were beautiful, moving. They were selfless in their acts of caring for the sick.
I loved this book! I believe it is a story I'll never forget.
The beginning and ending of book is strong, mid-way through the book it lagged a bit. Not ungratefully slow, just lost my interest for several pages.
The ending concluded with answering a few questions I'd had.
Rachel's story is not a neat and tidy and sunny disposition. Rather it spoke to my heart because of her great suffering; yet she had endurance and gratitude and most of all grace. It is her grace that will be what I will remember most.
Link to read Jack London's story The Leper's of Moloka'i:
Another article by CBS:
Paperback Published October 2004 by St. Martin's Press a division of Macmillan
Link @ Barnes and Nobles: