April 6, 2010

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:10 am by lbrosch

Just finished reading Moloka’i by Alan Brennert and I can’t get it out of my mind. I have never been very knowledgeable about the disease of leprosy or more recently known as Hansen’s disease. Other than reading about lepers in the Bible I was only vaguely aware that the disease had been known in modern times as well. Since 1980 a part of Hawai’i known as Kalaupapa has been a historical park but this book tells much of its long history as a location for leper exiles. The story centers around the life of fictional Rachel Kalama who is diagnosed with the disease at the age of 7. She is taken from her family and learns to survive through the love and kindness of other lepers and the sisters of the Bishop Home on Kalaupapa. The story describes not only the discrimination against the lepers themselves but their entire family faced isolation so great that jobs were lost resulting in many families becoming destitute.  Often they were forced to move away to a place where no one new they had a leprous family member. Many characters in the book are real people who were a part of the colony’s history. This is a heart wrenching story which will put you on an emotional roller coaster. Many times when you think Rachel is about to overcome the odds, you find that she is thrown down into the depths again and your emotions are stretched to the limit. It is an important story to be told to the world about the history of the treatment of leprosy and the needless suffering of so many who had to endure the loss of family and eventually their lives due to the ignorance of how the disease was spread and the lack of treatment. After taking us through many tragedies in the lives of the citizens of Kalaupapa the book does end on a hopeful note. I highly recommend this book to everyone!!

For more information on leprosy today go to the World Health Organization site.

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