Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I actually read this a few years ago when I borrowed it from a neighbor who was reading it for a book club. I absolutely loved it. I am writing a mini review now because I can see the island from my hotel room and I can not stop myself from telling my husband the history of the island and how leprosy was introduced, how the person that contracted leprosy was treated, and the slow bit sure rise of a civilization and actual town of the leprosy colony.
The protagonist is a six year old girl, having found a red spot on her skin right at the end of the century when the U.S. annexed the islands. Heartbreakingly, she is taken from her home and devoted father (we later find put what happened to the rest of the family once the stigma reached the neighbors) and relocated to the boarding school on the island. It is here she grows up, passes through the stages of life, and the reader gets a taste of life in a leprosy colony. It is not always death and sadness, although those realities hang heavy in their existences. They marry. They have children. They have to choose what they want for their children - leprosy or life. They bury their loved ones. They build lives. It is also during the main character's life that leprosy is renamed as Hansen's Disease, the offending culprit within the carrier identified, and a cure is administered.
I loved the ending. I will not provide any spoilers but to say that the entire book is realistically written, history is beautifully depicted, snd the journey is both messy and blissful. Highly recommend.
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