You wouldn’t expect such a beautiful cover to be about such a horrible topic. You’re probably looking at that cover thinking “Ooohhh pretty historical fiction about Hawaii!” and you’d be part right, except it’s also about leprosy and how Hawaiians diagnosed with it got shipped off to this island of Moloka’i to be there pretty much forever.
Specifically, this is the story of Rachel Kalama – an adorable 7-year old Hawaiian girl in 1891 who dreams of travelling the world like her dad. That dream gets shattered when some marks appear on her body and she’s declared a leper – she’s taken away from her family and sent to live at the leprosy settlement on Moloka’i, which is pretty much the place lepers live out their lives until they die.
This book slowly sucked me in – it took me a long while to really connect with Rachel, possibly because her story starts at such a young age. But watching her grow up with leprosy and seeing how it affects everyone around her became really interesting, and I ended up reading most of this book in one day. I didn’t really know much about leprosy or how it was such a big issue for Hawaii at one time.
Rachel was a good character, and I like how much fight she had in her in day-to-day situations, as well as her spirit and determination to try to beat leprosy. She also grew close to a lot of great characters – her “aunt” Haleola, her friends Catherine, Kenji, and Leilani. And of course because this is about a girl and her friends struggling with a horrible disease, I teared up a bit here and there.
Overall this was a good book, but I didn’t love it. I have no complaints about it, and I feel like some parts of it will stay with me for a long time, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book I’ll be raving about to friends. Still, if you like unique historical fiction then this book should totally be right up your alley.
Sarah Says: 3 stars