My book club, Chapter Chat, got together last night to discuss Alan Brennert's book Moloka'i. It was unanimous that we all really liked this book - a lot! That doesn't happen often. Most of the time, the books we read get mixed reviews. But, not Moloka'i. The thing that surprises me most about this book is that none of us had even heard of it before we chose it for book club. And, being that I work in a library, it's not as though I don't have my finger on the pulse of the book world. But, this book... nothing. Not a single review, no patrons asking for it, heck it hadn't even crossed my desk or shown up on a book cart. What the heck! I have a feeling the popularity of this book may grow in time. I think maybe we were just ahead of the pack. Oh yeah, that's me...living on the cutting edge.
Moloka'i tells the story of Rachel Kalama, a seven year old girl living in Honolulu in the early 1890's who is diagnosed with leprosy. She is taken away from her family and sent to live, in isolation, with other lepers on the island of Moloka'i. Once there, Rachel and the other residents are well treated and well-cared for. They are able to create full and happy lives for themselves, complete with excursions to the beach, dances, movie nights and a deep sense of family and home. Rachel even finds love and marries. Eventually, a cure for leprosy is found and the residents are given the option to leave Moloka'i and return to their former homes. For many this is a difficult decision to make, but Rachel decides to return to Honolulu to find the family that was stolen from her so long ago.
In spite of the depressing topic and the heartbreaking nature of Rachel's story, Moloka'i is filled with joy, love and courage. And the strength of the human spirit. Moloka'i is well worth reading.