Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Regardless of what happens, life goes on


Alan Brennert

It has been a long time since I had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to finish a book, but I was so captivated with the characters and story ofMoloka'i that I shamefully did nothing yesterday afternoon after work except read this book cover-to-cover...even forgoing sleep. Easily one of the best books I have ever read!

Rachel is a five-year old girl living in Waikiki in 1891; she is the youngest of four siblings and her father's unspoken favorite. Her dad is gone for 8-10 months at a time, working on cargo ships that travel the world, and Rachel dreams of traveling to far-away places as well. When Rachel is seven, her life takes a drastic turn - she is diagnosed with leprosy (later to become known as Hansen's disease) and is separated from her family and sent to the remote island of Moloka'i to live in quarantine because of the disease's rampant spread in the islands and the Hawai'i government fear. Rachel is terrified - of leaving her family, of being sick, and of the people in the Moloka'i colony who live their life disfigured by this painful disease. However, life goes on as Rachel adapts to her new life while never losing her desire to return to Oahu and her family.

I was absolutely captivated by this phenomenal story - Rachel was a strong, courageous character who lived through more than any one person should but still managed to be relatively happy and normal; the non-fiction aspects of this historical fiction novel has me shocked at what these people were forced to go through, I had no idea that leper colonies occurred less than 100 years ago (and still occur in several countries around the world); and I was enfolded in the story by Brennerts beautiful writing that flowed seamlessly among personal and national events, seventy years, and the many unfortunate deaths that littered Rachel's life on and off Moloka'i. But, above all else, I was in love with the relationships: friends, family, mentors, spouses - the 'ohana - that showed that these people were not lepers first and foremost, but were normal people living and experiencing like while unfortunately also battling leprosy.

This story was not a feel-good book; it was a roller-coaster of emotions (many tears for me!) that included many highs and lows but ultimately just depicted life. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Don't be like me and let it sit on your shelf for over a year before you finally pick it up!

1 comment:

  1. I need to read this. It has been sitting on my tbr stack for way to long now. I hope sometime this summer to tackle it.