Friday, August 25, 2000

Book Review: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Alan Brennert
Adult Historical Fiction
I listened to the Audible audiobook.
You might like this book if: You like historical fiction, you're interested in Hawaii, you like strong female characters, or sweeping stories that follow a character over a long period of time.

This book involved another of the moments of Synchronicity that often happen to me in connection with books. A few months ago, I happened upon an episode of a public television show called The Generations Project, which I'd never watched before. This is a genealogy show that helps an individual find out more about an ancestor about whom they are missing information. In the episode I accidentally found, a Hawaiian woman is trying to find out about her ancestor who was an inmate in the Kalaupapa settlement on the island of Moloka'i. It was a leper colony and I had never heard of it before.

When we chose books for one of my book groups, this one came up and I didn't really find out any information about it before I started reading. I had no idea what it was about. Well, it turns out that my TV show had prepared me well for the reading of this book and really enriched my experience with it. It is about the Kalaupapa Settlement, and the main character actually has several things in common with the person on the tv show. I loved that while I was reading, I could picture the place in my mind and have this real-life connection to the events of the story.

To summarize, this is an epic tale, following the life of one woman almost in its entirety. Hers is a rich life and I deeply loved her by the end. There are lots of other characters along the way and the story goes in waves of more and less interesting at times, just as life does. The writing is pretty good, though I'm curious to sample it in written, rather than audio, form. The narrator has such an influence on how a book comes across. This narrator has a cultural connection to the story, and that did add authenticity, which I liked, but the voice sometimes does obscure the writing. There were a few parts that the author included that seemed like they were added, while I'm sure they came from historical sources, merely to titillate rather than truly moving the story forward. It all worked out in the end though and even those characters became woven into the story in a way that fit a little better. Overall, I loved it and couldn't wait to pick up my knitting and listen. It is a 17 hour audio book, which means it must be several hundred pages as a book, so it is an undertaking, but it was a great story and I'm really glad I listened.

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