(St. Martin’s Press, 2003; paperback edition, 2004)

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, MOLOKA'I is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death. Such is the warmth, humor, and compassion of this novel that "few readers will remain unchanged by Rachel's story" (



"Moloka’i is a big, generous, compassionate, beautifully rendered epic exquisitely textured tale of darkness and light, tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit, filled with original, fully realized characters who walk right off the page and into our hearts." --Jim Fergus, author of One Thousand White Women: The Journals Of May Dodd

"A dazzling historical saga." --The Washington Post

“A moving story...a vivid picture of Hawaii before it became the Touristland it is today.” - Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove

"Moloka'i is a haunting story of tragedy in a Pacific paradise. The book opens a window on a world of dazzling beauty, and ugly disease and fear, and the courage of a young woman in the Hawaii of a hundred years ago. It is a story of romance and humanity, and struggle with the pain of isolation, in a place faraway in time, yet very close in intimacy and vividness, exact detail, giving us a sense of community and true kinship across time. It is a story of victory."     

--Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek

"Compellingly original... Brennert's compassion makes Rachel a memorable character, and his smooth storytelling vividly brings early twentieth-century Hawaii to life. Leprosy may seem a macabre subject, but Brennert transforms the material into a touching, lovely account of a woman's journey as she rises above the limitations of a devastating illness."   --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A generous portrait of a brave full life—Rachel Kalama's disease draws her into healing friendships with troubled Sister Catherine, with roommate Leilani who was born in the wrong body, with her true love Kenji, and more, all in a beautiful land that's both prison and refuge. Alan Brennert has brought eighty years of little-known history to engrossingly specific life—as inspiring as it is heart-breaking."   --Jonathan Strong, author of A Circle Around Her

“A poignant story”   --Los Angles Times

“Moloka’i transported me to a place I never thought I'd want to go—a 19th century Hawaiian leper colony. But Alan Brennert meticulously paints this world, making it resonate with our own, in which disease is still politicized and made a moral issue. Out of the tragedy of the ostracized and the afflicted, he tells a story of triumph and transcendence.” --Karen Essex, author of Kleopatra and Pharaoh

“A story that has long needed telling... Instead of elaborating on the horrors of the disease in order to build up drama, as a less skillful writer might have done, Brennert recognizes [the patients’] dignity and respects them.”

"Alan Brennert draws on historical accounts of Kalaupapa and weaves in traditional Hawaiian stories and customs.... Moloka'i is the story of people who had much taken from them but also gained an unexpected new family and community in the process."    
--Chicago Tribune

“Moloka’i fits my definition of a good book, even a great book, because it wraps a riveting personal story around real-life events.”

“An engrossing story...a most moving novel but based on facts.” --Connie Martinson Talks Books

"[An] absorbing novel...Brennert evokes the evolution of—and hardships on—Moloka'i in engaging prose that conveys a strong sense of place." --National Geographic Traveler

"Moving and elegiac."  --Honolulu Star-Bulletin