This is a marvelous and memorable novel. I expected the story of a person confined to a leprosy colony to be bleak and depressing, but this is the story of an amazing woman among brave and hopeful people who have created a close-knit and thriving community out of their isolated circumstances. Running the gamut of human emotions, it will break your heart and then make you weep with joy. I learned a lot about Hansen's disease and about the history of Hawai'i. My only complaint is that I wanted MORE. I wish the author had filled in more of the gaps, especially in the later part of Rachel's life after her release from Moloka'i. I also wish there had been more of the love story between Rachel and Kenji. I would gladly have read another 150 pages of this almost 400 page novel...
From the back cover:
This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning. With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death. Such is the warmth, humor, and compassion of this novel that "few readers will remain unchanged by Rachel's story" (mostlyfiction.com)