Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 21st 2003
Genre: Historical Fiction
Challenge Theme: A book written by a male author
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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.
I was hesitant about reading this book, it didn’t seem like something I would enjoy, but I am so glad I did. I absolutely LOVED it! First off the setting in Hawaii is so magical. I have been to Maui a few times and love it so much! Even with Moloka’i being a leper colony it still seems more beautiful than most places in the world.
The story of Rachel Kalama is one with such depth. It makes you feel a range of emotions from sadness, to happiness, to anger, and everything in between. The writing is beautiful and you can really tell that the author not only is an amazing writer but also took the time to do his research about this period in time. The books spans over the course of Rachel’s life, about 70 years, and while normally it would be hard to fit that much time into a 400 page book the author did it perfectly.
It would be easy to feel bad for Rachel about the horrible hand she was dealt at such a young age and the continuous things that happen to her but she never wallows in the life she was given so why should we? By the end you feel personally connected to these characters and everything they have been through. That is the mark of a great book!
“Fear is good. In the right degree it prevents us from making fools of ourselves. But in the wrong measure it prevents us from fully living. Fear is our boon companion but never our master.”
“‘Who can doubt the presence of God in the sight of men whom He has given wings.’ I recall that so precisely because I’ve had time to consider my error.” She smiled. ‘God didn’t give man wings; He gave him the brain and the spirit to give himself wings. Just as He gave us the capacity to laugh when we hurt, or to struggle on when we feel like giving up.'”
“Love, marriage, divorce, infidelity… life was the same here as anywhere else, wasn’t? She realized now wrong she’d been; the pali wasn’t a headstone and Kalaupapa wasn’t a grave. It was a community like any other, bound by ties deeper than most, and people here went to their deaths as people did anywhere: with great reluctance, dragging the messy jumble of their lives behind them.”