Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert


Title: Moloka'i

Author: Alan Brennert

Genre: Historical Fiction

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.

Where do I even begin for this review?

I was immediately immersed within this story from the first page- the moment I met little Rachel, before she was diagnosed with leprosy. Then to follow her through her entire life on the time line as she faces the outcast to Moloka'i, the struggles and shame, the ups and downs, love, loss, friendships, and a new family. The emotions, the descriptions and details are so amazing throughout this entire novel that I felt I was reading non-fiction at times. Or perhaps, that's how attached I grew to the number of characters that were throughout the story. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I cried some more. I learned a lot out of this novel as well- about a culture I sadly hadn't known too much about before, as well as about the past with this disease and how misunderstood things were back then due to lack of medical science. This has to be one of the best historical fictions I have ever read.

I loved it so much that I'm afraid I'm not even giving it the full in-depth worthy review it deserves. It made me utterly speechless when I had read the last page and realized that there was no more to be read. Biggest message of all: Life isn't over until it's over.

This book will definitely be recommended to many.

5 stars.

~The Bookaholic

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