Thursday, August 23, 2007

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

I got this book from the library and started to read it and was not excited, then I read a blog-review and was convinced that it wasn't for me. But alas, my some of my bookgroup members had already read it, so it was too late to change. I got it back from the library and read it.

This is the story of Rachel Kalama who contracts leprosy at the age of seven and is removed from her family and sent to the island of Moloka'i. It is about her growing up on the island and dealing with her own disease and leprosy in all of the people she lives with. This is a tragic story. Hawaiians had no immunity to Hansen's disease and it hit them hard. The only way to keep the disease from spreading was isolation. But it was a mean process stealing children from parents and parents from families. This book covers the years 1891 to 1970.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the history part of this book. I knew nothing of this Hawaiian leper colony until I read this book. But I didn't think it was particularly well written. I think because the writing felt too contemporary, especially in the beginning when it starts in the late 1800's. I guess ultimately it was too lightweight for the topic.

Last year I read a book called The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo about a Japanese pearl diver who contract Hansen's disease and is sent to an island in Japan. It was so much better, that if I was going to recommend a novel on this subject, this would be the one.