Friday Morning Bookclub

July 12, 2010

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Filed under: Book Discussions,Book Recomendations,Historical Fiction,Moloka'i — annwalter @ 11:09 am

Bookclub Discussion

While our fridaymorningbookclubbook members were all intrigued by the workings of the leper colony, the ingenuity of the people, and its advancement over the years, it was the resilience of the Rachel’s spirit that resonated with our hearts.

Our bookclub found much to discuss intellectually and emotionally and much on which to agree and disagree and places in the book to celebrate and places to cry. Moloka’i is a the story of people’s will to triumph in even the most horrifying of circumstances.

More than half the readers rated the book with five stars or “omelets.” As discussed below, I personally did not rate it so high, but as a book club member mentioned on Friday and I so agree, in bookclub you read books you may not normally pick yourself. There was great educational value in the book for me.

About the Story

Moloka’i takes place during the late 1800’s to the 1940’s when leprosy patients were forced into isolation on the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai. There was incredible stigma associated with the disease of the “unclean” and whole families were ostracized if one family member had the disease.

Alan Brennert draws you into the fictional life of Rachel Kalama, a seven year old girl who is wrenched from her home and family and is sent to Kalaupapa when it is discovered she has leprosy. Under the care of the Franciscan Nuns (and seemingly abandoned by most of her family), Rachel grows up in the colony. The story tells of the life she makes for herself.

Along the way you are given glimpses into the history of Hawaii — the struggle between two cultures at a crossroads. The time period includes the coup that overthrew the monarchy, as well as the introduction of Christianity to the island vs traditional customs and beliefs.

The middle of the story moved a bit slowly for me — all these themes spanning 70 years may have been just too much to cover — but it ends poignantly with the discovery of a “cure” for leprosy and the reconciliation of Rachel with the family who seemed to have forgotten her.

More about Leprosy

Alan Brennert does a great job job of balancing fiction and non-fiction in this story and our book club found tremendous historical value in Moloka’i.  It seemed the majority of members discussing the book last Friday did not know much about leprosy before reading Moloka’i and the story really piqued our curiosity.

We wanted to know more and were motivated to do further research. Many members found youtube videos either about Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i or other leper colonies.

The first one is about two women who met as teenagers when they were banished to Molokai and still live there today.
Kalaupapa, Molokai — The Last Leper Colony

The second is a short video documenting a visit to Kalaupapa, which both shows its magnificence and gives a brief history.

Visit to Kalaupapa

This video is of a leper colony on Culion Island in the Philippines. Culion Island was known as The Island of the Living Dead.

July 8, 2010

Books That Make You Cry!

Filed under: Literary Tidbits,Moloka'i — susanbright @ 10:07 pm

I have heard from more than one of our members that this month’s book Moloka’i made them cry.  Although I did not cry while reading   Moloka’i, I found parts of the book extremely sad and troubling  and other parts actually uplifting! I have to admit, I am having trouble remembering the last time a book made me cry. I don’t want to sound heartless……. I do have feelings….. I am often brought to tears while watching a sad movie! Can you recall the last time you read a book with a box of kleenex by your side? What are some of your favorite tear jerking books or movies?

July 5, 2010


Filed under: Historical Fiction,Moloka'i — susanbright @ 10:45 am

The book Moloka’i opened my eyes to a time and place in history that I barely knew existed. Of course I had heard stories about leper colonies, but had not idea of how many people were affected and for how long the colonies were actually in existance. Imagine what would have happened in the 1980’s  if the government had decided to quarantine every person afflicted with the AID’s virus or any other contagous disease and send them to live on an isolated island.  Imagine children being taken from their parents homes, husbands being seperated from their wives. This is exactly what happened to the unfortunate people who contracted Leprosy in the 1800’s. We have been talking about the book Moloka’i and the Kalaupapa leper colony, but there were  other leper colonies in other parts of the world also. Check out this video of a leper colony on Culion Island in the Philippines. Culion Island was known as “the island of the living dead”.

July 4, 2010

Moloka’i … some insights

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Moloka'i — janinefrier @ 11:22 am

I am almost finished reading the haunting tale of Rachel and her life as a leper, in Kalaupapa, on Hawaii’s Moloka’i Island.  Many questions have arisen for me while reading this book.  One was certainly to learn more about this devastating disease and what its prognosis is like today.  So for those of you who are also interested in this, you can click here to read about Leprosy’ history, symptoms and treatment, according to the NIH.

Having visited Hawaii and also seen much footage on this beautiful island group, I could conjure up a pretty good visual of what I thought Kalaupapa looked like.  I still, however wanted more. So I did some searching on YouTube and found two video’s which help capture both its beauty and tragedy.  If you have a few minutes please take a look.

The first one is about two women who met as teenagers when they were banished to Molokai and still live there today.

Kalaupapa, Molokai — The Last Leper Colony

The second is a short video documenting a visit to Kalaupapa, which both shows its magnificence and gives a brief history.

Visit to Kalaupapa

July 2, 2010

Rate The Book: Moloka’i By Alan Brennert

Filed under: Moloka'i,Polls,Rate The Book — susanbright @ 5:05 pm

All votes and comments are welcomed. What did you think of Moloka’i?

July 1, 2010

Nothing Like Curling Up With A Good Book!

Filed under: Literary Tidbits,Moloka'i — susanbright @ 8:52 pm

June 30, 2010

Moloka’i By Alan Brennert

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Moloka'i — susanbright @ 4:37 pm

This is a picture of the St. Philomena Church, which was mentioned throughout the book Moloka’i.  In the book the church was located across the road from the Baldwin Home for boys. In Hokea’s paintings St. Philomena had a ” white cross over its door… and somberly framed by the graveyard in the foreground…..” (page 278)

June 23, 2010


Filed under: Historical Fiction,Moloka'i — Esther @ 9:46 pm

I just finished reading this month’s book club selection, “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert, and I must say, I can’t get this book out of my mind.  When I first started reading this novel, I felt almost as if it were young adult fiction, and I wondered if I was going to like it.  Boy was I wrong!  After  a few more pages, I was totally caught up in the tale of young Rachel, and life in the leper settlement at Kalaupapa.  I was totally impressed by the amount of research that the author put into this book, and felt that this book raised many emotions.  I can’t wait to discuss this book in book club!

Below is an interesting link dealing with Kalaupapa:

Molaka’i:This Month’s Book

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Moloka'i — susanbright @ 7:48 pm

Did you know that……….

Research shows evidence of cases of Leprosy as early as 4000 B.C. The earliest written mention of Leprosy was found on Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1550 B.C. This disease often appeared in families, so it was thought to be hereditary. Many believed that the disease was a punishment from God and people were ostracised and sent to leper colonies such as Moloka’i. In 1873 Dr. Gerhard Hansen discovered bacteria in the lesions and realized that the disease was caused by a germ and was not hereditary. Leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease, named after the Norwegian doctor.

June 17, 2010

Interesting Facts:This month’s book Moloka’i

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Moloka'i — susanbright @ 11:00 am

Moloka’i is the fifth largest of the Hawaiian islands, and is 38 miles long and 10 miles wide. Today it has a population of close to 8,000 people and approximately 75,000 people visit each year. It is often referred to as the Friendly Island. Moloka’i is a fish shaped island and is cut off from the rest of the world by the Pacific Ocean on one side and 1600 foot cliffs on the other. When Leprosy, known today as Hansen’s disease spread to Hawaii in the 1800’s the government set up a colony on the island in order to quarantine the affected people from the general population. The first victims, 9 men and 3 women were shipped to Moloka’i in  1866. There were no buildings of any kind at the time and the people lived in caves or shelters made out of sticks. In 1969, after a treatment for Leprosy was discovered, and the people were no longer considered a threat, the isolation policy was lifted and they were allowed to leave the island. Some of the people sent to Moloka’i are still alive today. They range in age from 60-90 and a select few have  chose to stay on the island as this was the only home they ever knew.

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