When I was younger, the only thing I knew about leprosy was what I learned from the Catholic Church. Even then, it still didn't resonate with me about the seriousness of it. In reading Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, I found myself in the middle of a society in which leprosy ruled with a diseased heart.
We are invited to Hawai'i by invitation of a seven year old girl named Rachel Kalama. She and her family live in Honolulu during the late 1800s under the rule of King Kalakaua. There, Rachel experiences the bliss of being a child in a world of paradise, until a rose coloured mark appears on her skin. After several tests, she is deemed to have leprosy and is sent to Kalaupapa, the settlement for lepers on the island of Moloka'i. And it is there that Rachel's life truly begins.
This book had me hooked from page one - you are immediately transported to Hawai'i with no intention of leaving until the final page. Brennert's writing gives the reader an up close view of the history of Hawai'i, filled with its many legends and myths, the fall of monarchs and the rise of becoming part of the United States, and even detailed information regarding leprosy. Moloka'i comes alive as the settlement slowly turns from a horrible place of pus and Death to one filled with music, laughter, and a desire to live no matter how long that may be. Love in all forms is among the damned and from that comes hope. Even when her family disappears from her life throughout the years, Rachel is grateful to have a second family made up people who love no less than those who are healthy. She loves and is loved in turn, of which not even leprosy can take away.
An excellent read and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Brennert's work.