Set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning
I must admit that I picked up this book to read for my book group with a very negative attitude. The story just sounded much too much like The Island by Victoria Hislop - the tale of an island leper colony - sound familiar! So it was a pleasant surprise when I found that I was enjoying it after just a few chapters.
I thought the author writes very well and flows rather smoothly when linking together a large number of facts and events. He describes the settings beautifully and made me feel like I had actually visited Hawai'i (and I certainly want to even more now). The characters were well developed and all added something to the story (except one mentioned below). I really felt like I was experiencing what the main character was going through despite it being so far from my own personal life that it should be unbelievable. While I really had sympathy for Rachel, the main character, I felt that she was very strong and would somehow overcome everything.
A bit of a spoiler here but not too much - I was dreading the chance of a happy ending where she was cured and lived happily ever after and was glad when it didn't work out quite like that although, even I, who normally hate a happy ending and love it when everyone dies in terrible pain, was routing for Rachel to get some good luck in her life for a change. So much happened to this poor lady that, when she got on a ship to go on a journey, I was half expecting it to be called The Titanic! I felt the author got the ending right and gave me what I wanted without being too sickly sweet.
So why the four stars instead of five?!
The book was just a bit overwritten. It was too long and felt like the author had done so much research and gathered so many facts about that place and time, that he felt that he had to include every single last one of them into the story. He could quite easily have cut upwards of 100 pages without losing the feel and flow of the story - in fact the story would have flowed even better had it been "edited" down somewhat.
Another annoyance, for me, was the character of Leilani. Now I won't put a spoiler about this character but I felt that it was squeezed in to get across one possible side effect of Leprosy which really was not needed for the enjoyment of the book. I also felt that the character was put in for sensational effect (and you will know why once you read the book), which did not really work for me.
A new author to me and one I will look out for in the future.
Worth a read, especially if you like descriptive, historical books.