Date completed: (8/8/2015)
This was truly an amazing read. A rollercoaster of ups and downs, crying sessions, moments where I just wanted to throw the book against the wall. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Rachel Kalama is very young when she discovers she has leprosy. She is sent to Kalaupapa, where she spends most of her life before going on T.R. and returning to Honolulu and then to the mainland. Taking place in the later 1800’s and early 1900’s, this book is a gem in historical fiction. I felt as though I was living life and experiencing oppression along with Rachel through this story, and I learned a lot about Hawaii’s relationship with America.
The story is very enjoyable, and despite the heavy topics, the author finds joy with the characters in some of the simpler pleasures of life. “Haleola noted that some surfers seemed to crouch on their boards, arms outstretched, constantly striving for the proper balance; others stood straight as a statue, arms at their sides, gliding serenely on the surf as if untroubled by balance or gravity. Rachel fell in between: poised but fluid, her knees bending and hips twisting as she shifted her weight to change the board’s direction. Not serene, perhaps, but graceful and self-assured.” Readers are privileged to watch Rachel ride the surfboard of her tumultuous life, not serenely, but gracefully and confidently.
I have not had to live such a challenging life as Rachel. I am grateful to be as privileged as I am, to live in a time where we know medically about such diseases that used to tear people’s lives apart and that there are cures, treatments, and vaccinations for these diseases. I am privileged that I’ve never experienced prejudice because of my skin color or my upbringing. I am able to access jobs easily, unlike Rachel, and I have freedom to travel wherever and whenever I want to. I have never had to experience imprisonment.
Alan Brennert grew up in New Jersey and lives in California now. He has two other books, Palisades Park and Honolulu. He also writes for TV and movies.