Moloka'iPaperback - 2004
This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.
With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death. Such is the warmth, humor, and compassion of this novel that "few readers will remain unchanged by Rachel's story" (mostlyfiction.com).
From the critics
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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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