Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Moloka'i

Title: Moloka'i
Author: Alan Brennert
Genre: Fiction
My rating: 4.5 Stars
Description: A novel revolving around the fictitious life of Rachel Kalama who is "banished" to the leprosy settlement in the island of Molokai when she was 7 years old. 

On the island of Molokai in the Hawaiian archipelago is a little village called Kalaupapa. The first thought that comes to mind while thinking of a village in Hawaii is beauty. However, Kalaupapa is associated with a very "ugly" history. In the late 1800s, Hawaiians who had/were suspected of having lepsory were immediately isolated and kept in quarantine. If medical tests came back positive, the victims were immediately shipped away to Kalaupapa, which can been aptly described as "a prison fortified by nature". There was no escape from this settlement.Luckily, the colony soon attacted caretakers who were ready to take care of the patients in spite of the widespread belief that leprosy was a highly contagious disease.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert is set in the village of Kalaupapa. 7 year old Rachel Kalama is diagnosed with the disease and is "banished" to the leprosy settlement.In this place where lives are supposed to end, Rachel's just begins. She leads as normal as life as possible in the village surrounded by victims in various stages of decline. Death is a common phenomenon and life is not taken for granted here. But amidst all the sickness and death, Rachel sees that the victims still live life to the fullest. She, like most others on the island, develops strong friendships, supports other in times of need, falls in love, indulges in favorite activities, and in general stays happy!

Molokai is an amazing book. It is really well written. I sobbed my way through the first part of the book - the cruel action of separating an innocent girl from her family was heart wrenching, the condition of the people on Molokai was appaling and I felt that things could only go downhill when Rachel was sent to Molokai. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong. There was so much more to the place than just disease and death. Rachel grows up amidst people who love her.

The books ends in 1970 with the death of Rachel Kalama - but on a positive note. By this time, antibiotics have been developed to battle the bacteria and patients are no longer quarantined and sent to Kalaupapa.

I would definitely recommend this book. Even though this is a fiction, it is a well researched book and the facts about the leprosy settlement are accurate.

Have you already read this book? what are your thoughts? Did you like it as much as I did?


bermudaonion said...

That sounds so good! I'm adding it to my wish list.

Swapna said...

This book sounds amazing. I've heard of it, but had no idea what it was about until now. I definitely want to read it.