Moloka’i by Alan Brennert (Bookies Book Club Review)
Small synopsis: Hawaii in the late 1800’s was a beautiful place but a potentially frightening one as well. With the outbreak of Leprosy everyone was on the look out for anyone who may have this contagious disease. When little Rachel “Aouli” Kalama found a sore on the back of her leg that would not heal. She is eventually taken away from her family to live in Kaulapapa, an are off the island of Moloka’i for those with Leprosy. Here is where Rachel lives her life.
In May of 2014, 15 of the Bookies Book Club showed up for a review of Moloka’i. We sampled Hawaiian culture foods and discussed this read of a time in Hawaii most of us were unfamiliar with.
Using the questions provided int he back of the book, we discussed Leprosy compared to the AIDS scare if the 80’s, and what that must have felt like at the time to those who were in fear for their lives and the lives of their families. As in Rachel’s case, being taken away from her family had to be devastating on both sides; and Rachel’s diagnosis put a huge label on her family and even though they did not have it themselves they were shunned by their community.
Rachel herself makes for a great protagonist. Learning at a young age that she was pretty much on her own, she has a strong will, but also a sensible one. While she may stretch the boarders, she does have a wonderful sense of right and wrong and it shows throughout the storyline.
The Bookies overall enjoyed the book. A few found it a bit drug out, certainly not a fast read at almost 400 pages, but filled with deep historical facts that made for a good read.
What makes this a good book club read?
Moloka’i does make a good book group discussion due to it’s historical nature. There is plenty to discuss around the subject of Leprosy and what we can compare that to today. The characters of this book and how they respond to Rachel is also discussion-worthy. Once you label a person, how does that change us?
The questions in the back of the book are great for the discussion. There is also a section in the back of more detailed facts behind the fiction that makes for interesting follow up. A group could bring items of Hawaiian culture or information off the websites marked in the back pages to add to this discussion.
The natural deepness of this read also makes you feel like you read something important. Deeper reads deepen your book discussions.