Historical fiction set in Hawaii, when people diagnosed with leprosy were sent to live out their lives on Moloka'i.
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It’s rare for me to read independently published books, or books pitched to me directly by authors. It’s not that I don’t want to, but my reading calendar is very full and I’ve historically had better luck with traditionally published books. Running from Moloka’i is a notable exception that is worth any historical fiction lover’s time.
In 1884 Hawai’i, leprosy is ravaging the native population. Those diagnosed are doomed to a life on Moloka’i, separated from family and the rest of society. Fifteen-year-old Mele’s father is a doctor who supports this policy, while her mother secretly helps hide the afflicted. The issue is defining in Mele’s coming-of-age, as she decides who she is and what side she is on.
Anderson has meticulously researched the culture and history of both leprosy and the white colonization of Hawaii. Her writing is exceptional; the characters and islands came alive. Kirkus has given this a starred review, and I too give it 5 stars–I can’t wait for more from Anderson.
Much has been written about thousands of sick Hawaiians forced into exile on the island of Moloka’i. Their fate is a stain on history. But of one group, there are no records. No written history. What about those hidden by their families? What made it into the history books about those eluding the sheriff, the bounty hunters, and the health authorities? What of those hiding in caves and cane fields, in hills and valleys? Nothing. Their stories, guarded and held close, have been obscured by the footprints of history. They are only hinted at, alluded to. A sentence here or there. ‘Running from Moloka`i’ honors and gives voice to this hushed group. Told by fifteen-year-old Mele Bennett, the story has as many facets as a gem, as many chambers as a heart. It is the story of Keahi, the boy Mele has loved since childhood; the story of a gentle soul named Manu hiding in Manoa Valley; the story of a family divided; of betrayal tucked deep inside love; of improbable trust when life and death are at stake; of the tender bond of two kids in love.