Moloka'i turned out to be better than I ever anticipated. I began reading quite a few month's ago, but the library demanded it back before I could finish. Which led to me buying it and not getting back to it immediately. I picked it up last week and started in from the beginning.
Moloka'i is about Rachel, who contracts leprosy while living in Hawaii in the late 1800's. According to the historical part of this historical fiction, the Chinese brought the leprosy bacteria with them when they came to Hawaii. Americans, of course, brought smallpox and mumps. I think that's our standard gift to give to folks. Rachel was only 6 or 7 years old when it's discovered that the lesions on her leg and foot were leprosy. Her Uncle Pono had just been "arrested" and sent away for leprosy as well.
All lepers are treated as criminals. They are forced into isolation, torn away from their families and eventually end up at Moloka'i. The writing in this book was exceptional, the pain of a little girl being forced away from her family was heartbreaking.
Without giving anything away, which is hard to do, the book follows Rachel through the rest of her life at Moloka'i. She has her Uncle Pono there, she makes friends, she marries and has a child.
Leprosy appears to be a disease somewhat like AIDS, in that leprosy doesn't kill people. It weakens the immune system so much that even a common cold is fatal. As the book follows Rachel, it's just staggering the amount of deaths she witnesses, all loved ones. And it's very inspirational in how she handles every death and setback.
Moloka'i was really a fantastic book. Well worth reading.