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Friends are Reading: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

2003, St. Martin's Press

Thanks to my friend Joan for this summary.

In this historical fiction novel set in 19th century Hawaii, Rachel, a young girl diagnosed with leprosy, is torn from her family and sent to a leper colony on the island of Moloka'i. Factually, the Kalaupapa leper colony was established there in 1866; almost three decades later Queen Lili'uokalani was overthrown and soon after the United States annexed Hawaii. With these true events as a backdrop, Moloka'i describes the horrible conditions at the leper colony as Rachel grows into adulthood, finds love and eventually receives the drugs needed to cure her disease and free her of its stigma. Even those not given to weeping over books may do so through the final chapter.

Perhaps the reason I loved this book so much is because of all the time my husband and I spent in Hawaii, including a day trip to Moloka'i where we could see from a distance the Kalaupapa leper colony, separated from the rest of Moloka'i high above the Pali mountain cliff. I also read Leper Priest of Molokai: The Father Damien Story by Richard Stewart, a non-fiction work which presents different aspects of the story, focusing on Father Damien and the nuns who gave up their lives to minister to the lepers.


You can read Moloka'i here.

A sequel published in 2019, Daughter of Moloka'i, recounts the story of Rachel's daughter Ruth, including her internment during World War II.

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