Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Moloka'i | Alan Brennert

I was drawn to this book because it is the story of the leprosy colony in Moloka'i which I had heard of but didn't know much about. Brennert has done a lot of research and it infuses the story with personal and historical authenticity.

The book is primarily the story of Rachel, a six year old girl, living in Honolulu in the late 1890's who is diagnosed with leprosy and then transported and exiled to the Leper colony on Molokai. She is not allowed any more contact with her family and has to learn to make a new family in the isolated community.

I was captivated by the beauty of the landscape, the variety of characters and Rachel herself who is amazing. Also there are non-infected people who work on the island voluntarily, nuns and priests who care for the wellbeing of the children and adults in the community. The best known is Father Damian but the book is set after his death. The doctors who came and persevere with the disease were incredible people as well as dedicated professionals.

As Rachel grows up she has the same questions and longings as any other girl growing up in that era, but is confined to a small peninsula with limited resources and no chance of escape. We journey with her as she grows up and into her dotage.

This book is well worth reading, and others like it who can reveal to us what it was like to have such a severe disease at a time when medicine was a developing science.

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