Saturday, February 16, 2019

Daughter of Moloka’I, by Alan Brennert. St. Martin’s Press, 2019

We first meet Ruth in an orphanage on Oahu, the half Japanese, half Hawaiian daughter of occupants of the Moloka’I leper colony. Over the course of 54 years, from 1926 to 1970, we follow her life as she is adopted by a Japanese family who move to California to farm. Of course, come Pearl Harbor, they are put in an internment camp and later have to start over in the aftermath. Ruth is contented with her life; she loves her parents and is starting a family of her own. Then, out of nowhere, a letter arrives from Rachel – her birth mother. Will Ruth want to meet the woman who gave her up when she was one year old? Can she love both her birth mother who she doesn’t remember and her adoptive mother, the only other she’s known? Can she even understand the woman who gave her up- and who lived a significant amount of her life in the leper colony?

The characters are mostly well drawn and three dimensional. The author brings places to life, too- the islands, central California, the internment camps. I think this description of the inhumanity of putting people in internment camps like animals comes at a time when the US is doing the same thing all over again, and I hope it will make some difference in the minds of readers. Five stars.

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