Book Review: Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

molokaiSpirited little Rachel Kalama’s life changes for the worst when, in 1890s Hawai’i, she is discovered to have leprosy. The disease breaks up the Kalama family as it makes them anathema, which no one in their community wants to touch. Young Rachel is deported to the secluded island of Moloka’i, never to be permitted to touch her family or loved ones again.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert is the heartbreaking and beautifully triumphant story of Rachel’s life on the island, her friendships and romances, her failures and victories, and her unbreakable spirit. It’s also a fascinating read of life in a leper colony. Also prominent in this book are the nuns and priests – including the real-life saint Father Damien of Moloka’i – who dedicated themselves to caring for the lepers on the island, when the rest of the world wouldn’t go near them. In this way, Brennert paints a refreshingly sympathetic depiction of Catholic history.

This book will make you laugh out loud, and also cry. And forget about being able to put it down until the very last page! Moloka’i is one of my hands-down favorite books. It has everything a novel should have: a full life story, three-dimensional and unforgettable characters with realistic dialogue, just enough sorrow to make your heart ache, but enough joy to keep you fully invested and rooting for the characters. Moloka’i is historically, culturally, and geographically descriptive and educational, full of depth and spirit, well-written, and exceptionally well-researched! I recommend this book!

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