Summary and book reviews of Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Daughter of Moloka'i

by Alan Brennert

Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert X
Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

The highly anticipated sequel to Alan Brennert's acclaimed book club favorite, and national bestseller, Moloka'i

Alan Brennert's beloved novel Moloka'i, currently has over 600,000 copies in print. This companion tale tells the story of Ruth, the daughter that Rachel Kalama - quarantined for most of her life at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapa - was forced to give up at birth.

The book follows young Ruth from her arrival at the Kapi'olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese couple who raise her on a strawberry and grape farm in California, her marriage and unjust internment at Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II - and then, after the war, to the life-altering day when she receives a letter from a woman who says she is Ruth's birth mother, Rachel.

Daughter of Moloka'i expands upon Ruth and Rachel's 22-year relationship, only hinted at in Moloka'i. It's a richly emotional tale of two women - different in some ways, similar in others - who never expected to meet, much less come to love, one another. And for Ruth it is a story of discovery, the unfolding of a past she knew nothing about. Told in vivid, evocative prose that conjures up the beauty and history of both Hawaiian and Japanese cultures, it's the powerful and poignant tale that readers of Moloka'i have been awaiting for fifteen years.

Chapter 1

1919

The sky above Diamond Head was a spray of gold as the sun seemed to rise up out of the crater itself. From atop its windy hill in Kalihiuka—"inland Kalihi"—Kapi'olani Home took in the sweeping view, from the grassy caldera of Diamond Head to the concrete craters of the new dry docks at Pearl Harbor. On a clear day, even the neighbor islands of Lana'i and Moloka'i could be seen straddling the horizon. The big, two-story plantation-style house on thirteen acres of trim lawn stood alongside the sisters' convent and chapel. The Kalihi Valley was largely agricultural, and the Home was surrounded by acres of sprawling cow pastures, hog breeders, and backyard poultry farms whose hens nested in old orange crates and whose roosters announced Morning Mass as well as any church bell. On the other side of Kamehameha IV Road there were groves of big-leafed banana plants, tall and thick as trees, prodigal with hanging clusters of green and yellow fruit; taro patches filled...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. If you've read Moloka'i, you already knew that the U.S. government used to take away the newborn children of Hansen's disease patients out of fear their parents would infect them. If you weren't aware of this, does it shock you to learn of it—and the fact that this practice continued even into the 1950s? What must Ruth's parents have gone through to give up their child?
  2. What do animals represent to Ruth?
  3. If you were Taizo, would you have accepted Jiro's offer and moved to California? If you were Etsuko, what would your response have been?
  4. What is your opinion of Jiro, and did it change in any way over the course of the story?
  5. Would it shock you to learn that Joseph Dreesen was based on a real-life person—his ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Daughter of Moloka'i is a heartfelt novel that is sure to please Brennert's fans and win him many new ones. While the book doesn't really break new ground, his characters are so well-crafted that the book is eminently entertaining. It is highly recommended to book groups and to anyone wishing for look at another version of the Japanese-American experience in World War II...continued

Full Review (576 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

USA Today
Alan Brennert does more than deliver the long-awaited sequel to has 2003 bestseller, Moloka’i...Brennert’s polished work extends an evocative, emotionally rich family saga to an important moment in American history....A novel of illumination and affection.

National Geographic
The reunion and blossoming relationship between mother and daughter is rooted in a deep love of Hawaii. Have tissues at hand.

USA Today
Brennert’s writing – workmanlike in the camp section – comes alive in his blending of ethnic language and his descriptions of Hawaii’s volcanic splendor...From the pain of Moloka’i, he crafts a novel of illumination and affection.

Publishers Weekly
In Brennert's skilled hands, Ruth's story is powerful and urgent.

Booklist
A historically solid, ultimately hopeful novel about injustice, survival, and unbreakable family bonds. Expect high demand.

Reader Reviews

Becky H

Daughter of Moloka'i is here!
The long awaited sequel to MOLOKA’I is here! Rachel’s daughter Ruth, taken from her the day Ruth was born, is the main character in this family tale that extends from Hawaii to California to Japanese internment camps and back to California. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Leprosy

In Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, the main character is forcibly taken from her mother and put up for adoption because her mother was diagnosed with leprosy. Also called Hansen's Disease, leprosy affects a person's skin and peripheral nerves causing a loss of sensation and tissue degeneration. Those impacted may experience the gradual loss of their extremities or even the amputation of a limb as hands and feet become deformed and eroded over time, generally because minor injuries go unnoticed and untreated. This is particularly true of populations who are poor and who may lack basic healthcare to treat such wounds.

The disease is caused by a bacillus called Mycrobacterium leprae (M. leprae). It's been a somewhat mysterious ...

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