But rather than give into death, the inhabitants of Moloka'i and their caretakers choose to celebrate life, strive after a cure, and look past the deformities of the body to the realities of the soul. Rachel grows up and wrestles with questions of religion, sexuality and family just as all humans do, in a rapidly changing world.
The discovery of this book was the result of a church rummage sale, and I've had it floating around my room for a few months. Although it was a New York Times Bestseller, I'd never heard of it before, but the premise was interesting, and I was curious to learn more about Hawaii's history. Although this is set after the death of Father Damian, his legacy is imprinted on the island, and Mother Marianne is a character in the book. Brennert does a superb job of writing respectful portrayals of the different religious backgrounds of all his characters - Catholic, Protestant, Morman, Hawaiian, and Buddist.
Life in the midst of death also means the creation of life, and leprosy doesn't bar the characters from having normal sexual lives. However there are a few scenes that make this book only suitable for adult readers. There is also a plotline involving a transgender character, which at first may seem an odd interjection, but in it's resolution you understand why it was an important part of telling a story of a leper colony.
Looking for a good book to read over Christmas break? I'd recommend this one.