Moloka'i: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Setting a novel in Molokai’s leper colony, conveying the horrors of the disease and the depravations suffered by those afflicted, while still telling a story that is uplifting, engaging, and ultimately hopeful is a challenge.  Brennert succeeds beautifully. 

The reader meets Rachel Kalama as a happy, boisterous child, beloved by both her parents. Young Rachel’s father is a sailor, bringing each of his children home gifts from far off places when he returns to port in Honolulu.  Rachel’s gifts are dolls; she treasures her collection and dreams of visiting the places her father has been.  It is a dream that will be overcome by a nightmare as Rachel develops a sore that does not heal and does not feel pain. 

In the late 1800’s the Board of Health ferreted out those suspected of leprosy, confining them to Kalaupapa on a remote corner of the Island of Molokai to await their death.  Rachel is only 7 when she is ripped from her family, sent to the leper colony. 

Rachel’s life spans a lot of history, Brennert brings the reader to care for this character as he allows her to grow, learn to cope with her affliction with grace, and do her best to live her days to the fullest.  This is a very enjoyable story to read, engrossing and enlightening at the same time.

— Deon Stonehouse


This richly imagined novel, 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.

With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death. Such is the warmth, humor, and compassion of this novel that "few readers will remain unchanged by Rachel's story" (

About the Author

Alan Brennert is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. He grew up in New Jersey but moved to California in 1973. His novel Moloka’i was a national bestseller and a One Book, One San Diego selection for 2012. It also received the Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the 2006 Book Club Book of the Year. His next novel, Honolulu, won First Prize in Elle Magazine’s Literary Grand Prix for Fiction and was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post. Of his novel Palisades Park, People Magazine said: “Brennert writes his valentine to the New Jersey playground of his youth in Ragtime-style, mixing fact and fiction. It’s a memorable ride.”

His work as a writer-producer for the television series L.A. Law earned him an Emmy Award and a People’s Choice Award in 1991. He has been nominated for an Emmy on two other occasions, once for a Golden Globe Award, and three times for the Writers Guild Award for Outstanding Teleplay of the Year.

Alan's short story"Ma Qui" was honored with a Nebula Award in 1992. His story “Her Pilgrim Soul” was adapted by Brennert himself for the Alan Menken musical Weird Romance in 1992.

His novel, Daughter of Moloka'i is a follow-up to Moloka'i that tells the story of Rachel Kalama's daughter Ruth, her early life, her internment during World War II, and her eventual meeting with her birth mother, Rachel. The novel explores the women's 22-year relationship, only hinted at it in Moloka'i.

Praise For…

“A dazzling historical novel.” —The Washington Post

Moloka'i is a haunting story of tragedy in a Pacific paradise.” —Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek

“Alan Brennert draws on historical accounts of Kalaupapa and weaves in traditional Hawaiian stories and customs.... Moloka'i is the story of people who had much taken from them but also gained an unexpected new family and community in the process.” —Chicago Tribune

“[An] absorbing novel...Brennert evokes the evolution of--and hardships on--Moloka'i in engaging prose that conveys a strong sense of place.” —National Geographic Traveler

“Moving and elegiac.” —Honolulu Star-Bulletin

“Compellingly original...Brennert's compassion makes Rachel a memorable character, and his smooth storytelling vividly brings early twentieth-century Hawai'i to life.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A stunning story of hope...captivating." —Woman's World

"Captivating." —Never Ending Story

Product Details
ISBN: 9780312304355
ISBN-10: 0312304358
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: October 4th, 2004
Pages: 416
Language: English
Series: Moloka'i