February 24, 2015

Moloka'i

Of the 10 books I read in 2014, Moloka'i was by far the most riveting of them all.  I've been waiting to write this review, for fear that it wouldn't live up to the book (and it won't) but I'm finally biting the bullet and posting about it because it's just such a beautifully written piece that it simply must be shared.

Initially it was the stunning cover photo that caught my eye when browsing potential new books to add to my reading list.  The delicate hibiscus flowers of a tropical setting layered against the hint of an attractive young woman contradicts a complex and potentially gruesome story of a Hawaiian girl who contracts leprosy near the turn of the century.

Leprosy, I dare say, is one of those little known and understood diseases among the general public - or so I was about to discover.  I think most of us associate leprosy with Biblical stories of Jesus healing lepers, who are typically described as grotesque beings wrapped in reeking rags and featuring oozing open flesh wounds and limbs that could rot and fall off.  Similarly, the disease has always been portrayed as extremely infectious.  It turns out that neither of these assumptions is exactly true.  Also, the modern day term for leprosy is Hanson's disease.

What I loved the most about this book, however, was Brennert's amazing skill at bringing to life the story's characters.  Dear little Rachel, the story's heroine, had me wrapped around her six-year-old baby finger half way through the first chapter.  I was completely emotionally invested in the characters from the very beginning and I stayed invested in them throughout the book; through every roller coaster plot twist right to the very end.  This is one of those books where as much as you loved experiencing the story, you mourn finishing the book because the characters feel like old and familiar friends that you enjoy visiting regularly.

And if you're the squeamish type who might be concerned about how gory the details may get, this too is handled skillfully, with an approach that doesn't shy away from the harsh realities but isn't going for shock value.

This is a book that I felt changed me.  Add it to your reading list today.