Brennert, Alan

  22 Reviews

When Rachel Kalama is seven, she is discovered to have leprosy and is quarantined in a leprosy settlement on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. This is the story of her life; from the moment she is taken from her family (never to live with them again), to her eventual cure as an adult and beyond. Not only does it chronicle the experience of an isolated community celebrating life while over-shadowed by disease, but also the changes in the management of leprosy. Based on extensive research, it is an inspiring story revealing a fascinating period of early 20th Century history. What's Hot - August 2013

Comments from Groups

Everyone loved it, couldn't put it down. Enjoyed the fictionalised writing about an important issue in history. Palmerston 019

We found it difficult to put down. It gave us an insight into Hawaiian history and the island of Moloka'i. We liked the 'realness' of each character in the story. Carterton 001

The discussion on [the book] and its subject was the best we've had for months! Lots of personal stories about similar subjects (TB, polio). New Plymouth 013

All enjoyed this beautifully written story. Found historical information very interesting. Christchurch 125

A unanimous "best sell" for our bookgroup.Alan Brennert had clearly studied his subject matter thoroughly and presented his novel in a manner that brought his characters to life. Palmerston North 2

Mixed feelings from the group. We thought he should maybe just have written the book as non-fiction. A number didn't finish it. Christchurch 360

A few of us were amazed that the book had been written by a man, as a woman's emotions were so well portrayed. Also by the fact that the author was a screen writer - when will we see a film? There was robust discussion about leprosy, and how long it took to find a cure. Auckland 016

Most members were pleased to have read this book, and to have learnt more about an era and disease they had little prior knowledge of. However, it was widely agreed that the writing style and continuous highs and lows of the linear plot were frustrating. Auckland 381

A great read. Heartbreaking situation in beautiful surroundings. Well drawn characters and interesting relationships. It made us all dip into current research on this terrible disease. We enjoyed the 'Get to Know the Author' and the 'Get to Know the History' sections at the back of the book. All agreed we would recommend this book to others. Hokitika 001

Generally, the book was found to be well-written, informative and well-paced. It was sobering rather than enjoyable however, and some saw it as overly graphic, overlong and sometimes contrived. We were all pleased that it had a happy ending! The discussion was rich, two of the group having visited a leper colony, and the questions prompted some good exchanges on, for example, whanau, fa'afafine and fear of the unknown. Tairua 001

We loved this book - average of 8/10. We were transported to Hawaii, and were moved by the main character Rachel. It was very educational about leprosy in those times. Taupo 007

The book was a popular choice! It was really interesting and gave us a good insight into the real lives that lepers lived in recent history. Well researched and an easy to read story. Queenstown 010

Everyone very much enjoyed the book, partly for the very interesting information about how leprosy was treated at the end of the 19th century, but also for the picture of the islands created by the author, and the warmth and colour of the characters. They came alive for us and added to the interest of the story....We all admired Rachel's strength of character and her resourcefulness, and were glad to follow the course of her life right through to the end. Katikati 001



CAMB 007
We all enjoyed this book. We learnt a lot, especially about Hansen's disease of course, but there was also so much culture included. It was very interesting, and even though the subject matter is grim, the read is quite positive.
TAUP 005
This book was well received by our group. The subject matter was very sad and disturbing but the issues raised were thoroughly discussed. We felt grateful for the modern drugs and treatment available nowadays.
AUCK 412
Our group had a range from 7 to 10, with three loving the book. We all agreed it was an interesting subject matter about which we knew very little but some felt the book was a bit drawn-out. A real insight into the horrors of leprosy and the associated social stigma and heartbreak.
AUCK 173
We all LOVED this book - such an interesting and fabulous story rooted in real history. 10/10 from everyone!
AUCK 173
We all LOVED this book - such an interesting and fabulous story rooted in real history. 10/10 from everyone!
Learning about the Moloka'i leper colony was very interesting: the attitudes, the effect on and shunning of remaining relatives. Local historical events at that time kept the reading interest up. The characters were not well developed so the storyline was the main interest.
TAUR 061
This was an easy read in which we immersed ourselves into the life of Rachel and a disease we needed to know more about. We speculated how we would manage losing a child (the current world would see them gone only 14 days if diagnosed with COVID) and marveled at the dedication of the father who never forgot. Some continued on and read the sequel and werent disappointed. Highly recommended.
AUCK 422
On the whole most thought that the subject was interesting but it was poorly written and needed editing. There was a diverse response with a lively discussion on the themes of loss, community, and relationships.
NELS 064
One of the best books our group has read thus far. The story moved along at a good pace and all members were able to learn a lot about leprosy - some doing further research into the topic. It was a good book for encouraging participation from members that often sit back and listen. We recommend this book to all.
A fascinating period of history and a completely different side to Hawaii, loved it.
CHCH 378
We all loved this book, so sad and descriptive that you felt you were living the story with them.
TAUR 018
All group members enjoyed the book, and were fascinated with the history and the background. We thought that all the characters were richly described, and were impressed with the research that went into the book and how the author referenced real life people - he was a great storyteller. Thoroughly recommended.
Unfortunately many group members did not finish the book. Most had read over half but were not grabbed by the story. Those who finished found it an interesting insight into recent Hawaiian history and leprosy. We all felt that Rachel was a vehicle through which the author could tell all his research, which made the story/writing laboured.
NEWP 003
Our group felt that the book gave an extremely interesting insight into the impact of leprosy on the natural population of Hawaii. We also had a good discussion on the US's pressure on the Hawaiian royal family and their demise at the hands of big business/ plantation owners with US support. But we felt there were too many sub-stories that didn't enrich the main narration and the ending was weakly drawn together and rather drawn out and unrealistic.
CHCH 312
We all enjoyed this book - maybe a little long at the end. Lively discussion about the historical contexts (eg. USA annexing Hawaii) and the traditional stories (links to Maui) and the Church/Nuns/Brothers. We enjoyed the rite of passage story and the stark reality of leprosy in the late 1800s and 1900s.
CHCH 316
Great book, beautifully written. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, and we had a good discussion on a disease that still carries a lot of myth, fear and misconception.
AUCK 192
We enjoyed the story and the history - learnt a lot about Hansen's Disease and Hawaii. Many were not so keen on the writing style - quite a wooden style, however the story made for a great discussion.
ROTO 013
Slow to get into, but a well-written and amazing story. A bit long. We all learnt something; it's nice to read fiction based on historical events.
CHCH 336
We loved this book.
This book contained everything - a good story, great characters, a range of emotions and plenty of humour. Well-written and totally believable and authentic. A book that will stay with us for a long time.
Most of us liked this book and were glad to have read it. Heartbreaking in places. Very well written and probably close historically to how things really were. A moving tale of a person's life. Recommended.
Created a lot of discussion due to the historical aspect and subject matter of leprosy. Few knew anything about this part of history and illness. Very interesting. Differing views on the writing style. Although the novel was essentially a chronicle of Rachel's life and contained a lot of sadness, there was enough triumph of the human spirit to keep readers going.