Description (source): If you are familiar with the name Moloka’i at all, you probably know what this novel is about. Moloka’i is a Hawaiian island famous for its leper colony (Father Damien’s domain). Rachel is just a small child when leprosy strikes and she is separated from her family and sent to live on Molokai. The book follows Rachel’s life there as it is affected by events in Hawaii (the book opens while Hawaii is still under the monarchy) and by advances in medicine.
Plot: The kind of book you’d classify as “sweeping narrative.” It basically follows one woman’s life from start to finish.
Characters: Rachel, the heroine, is a very sympathetic character, and the reader identifies with and roots for her throughout the book. There are many interesting secondary characters as well, including some who are actual historical figures.
Writing style: This is one of the best-researched books I have read in a long time. Brennert is not a native Hawaiian, but the amount of historical detail is impressive, and it all rings true (though I don’t know enough about Hawaii to know for sure).
Audience: I think this book will mostly appeal to women, as it is woman and family-centered, though men who are interested in Hawaiian history or mission work with lepers would also enjoy it.
Wrap-up: Achingly sad at times, the book overall is the story of a life’s narrative, with some great times and some long, difficult trials. While it is educational due to the amount of medical and state history that is included, it never feels didactic. Our book group read this book, and I think it was unanimously enjoyed. 4/5*