Monday, February 15, 2010

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Check it out! This is first non-YA (or children's, in the case of City of Ember and Voyage on the Great Titanic) book I've read in 2010! I really enjoy reading Young Adult books, but sometimes it's fun to jump into a heavier book like Moloka'i.

Moloka'i is the story of Rachel Kalama, a six-year-old Hawaiian girl living in Honolulu in the late 1800's. When a leprous spot appears on Rachel's leg, her world is turned upside down and she is separated from her family and sent to live in the leper colony Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka'i. Despite her lifelong confinement to this island, Rachel's life is a full one, complete with all the ups and downs of human existence.

The only regret I have about this book is that I did not read it sooner. I've been meaning to read it for a long time now, and I even bought it a few months ago when I saw it on the shelf of a local Waldenbooks that was closing. I knew it would be something up my alley since I'm a big historical fiction fan, and yet other books just kept popping up between it and me. It's a real shame though because this is a wonderful book.

I do not know a lot about the history of Hawaii, and I also knew very little about leper colonies other than the fact that they did exist. I've also never visited Hawaii, so I was rather blind going into this novel. Honestly though, Brennert is such a wonderful storyteller that I didn't need photos or personal experience or anything to really feel as though I was immersed in the story and setting. He's just that good. Something else I loved was the intermingling of fictional characters with people who really existed. While I was reading this book I did end up doing some hunting on Wikipedia (a common practice when I read great historical fiction) and learned about some of the facts of the leper colony on Moloka'i. It amazed me how well integrated these facts were, and I have to applaud Brennert for making it so seamless that he was able to create a compelling tapestry from these threads of truth.

If I had to complain about anything about this book, I would probably say the ending. The last one-fourth of the book felt a bit rushed, but it wasn't anything crazy because quite frankly things were wrapping themselves up. Overall, I really loved it. This book is proof that despite great heartache people can find great happiness too.

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