Healing Water: An Hawaiian Story

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Nineteenth-century Hawai'i. Thirteen-year-old Pia's life is forever changed by leprosy. Pia has never known his real father. But Kamaka, a family friend, has taught him how to work, explore, and take on physical challenges. Pia believes Kamaka is fearless. He never suspects that a time will come when Kamaka could actually be afraid of him. Neither does he expect his own body to betray him, or his government to tear him from his family and send him into exile. When Pia finds himself abandoned on Moloka‘i, in ...
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Overview


Nineteenth-century Hawai'i. Thirteen-year-old Pia's life is forever changed by leprosy. Pia has never known his real father. But Kamaka, a family friend, has taught him how to work, explore, and take on physical challenges. Pia believes Kamaka is fearless. He never suspects that a time will come when Kamaka could actually be afraid of him. Neither does he expect his own body to betray him, or his government to tear him from his family and send him into exile. When Pia finds himself abandoned on Moloka‘i, in Hawai‘i's leprosy settlement, he turns to the skills he learned from Kamaka to help him survive. But the conditions are harsh. Pia discovers that he must choose between lawlessness and aloha, revenge and forgiveness, his own willfulness and the example of someone worthy of being like a father. This fictional account was inspired by the experiences of the many Hawaiians who were sent to Moloka‘i's isolated Kalaupapa peninsula starting in 1866 and by the life of Father Damien deVeuster, who chose to live and work there in the late 1800s. The author conducted extensive research, working with experts and visiting the leprosy settlement.

   Suddenly I felt my power. Kamaka wanted my friendship. But I did not want his.
   I looked at him and smiled a slow, taunting smile. Then I poured the water down the side of the mountain and watched it turn into a cool stream. It rippled over the rocks like an old song. But it was not a happy sound.
   "Swim by yourself, Kamaka," I said. "I will never swim with you again."
   The volcano erupted then and shook me awake.
—FROM THE BOOK

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A memorable story of hope in the most desperate of circumstances. (author's notes, timeline, glossary, resources)" --Kirkus Reviews

"For readers who've only ever imagined Hawai'i as a vacation paradise, this is a riveting look into its history and people during a dark period. . . . Readers will find their compassion stirred and their interest piqued through this truly fine historical novel." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

* "This interesting and compelling read on an infrequently written-about topic will find an appropriate audience in a middle or a high school setting." --Library Media Connection, starred review

Children's Literature - Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
This book is historical fiction about a leprosy colony on an isolated peninsula in Hawaii, not a joyful subject. Yet, Hostetter manages to write a story with heart, hope, and vigor, using a genuine voice. Pia is a young boy when he is sent to the colony, separated forever from his family and all who love him. Within a few days, he finds himself acting in ways that he never dreamed possible—stealing from others, using any means necessary to ensure his own survival. Using Pia as a narrator, Hostetter captures the lilting flow of Hawaiian speech, giving the language both an air of simplicity and beauty. When Father Damien, an actual person, arrives on the peninsula, the lives of those with leprosy gradually change for the better, with the addition of a church, a hospital, and some monetary compensation for the patients. Those who have chosen a life of crime gradually turn from their ways and revert to the generosity so natural to Hawaiians, sharing what they have and mutually supporting all. Contrary to my first impression of the topic, this is an uplifting book that tells of the miracle wrought through one man's love of his fellow man. Hostetter ends with historical information about Father Damien's life, leprosy, and the colony that benefited so much from his tender care. Reviewer: Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
VOYA - Hilary Crew
When thirteen-year-old Pia's mother finds the telltale spots on his body, Pia is torn from his family and sent to the island of Moloka'i. As soon as he steps foot on the rocky shore, Pia must fight to survive in a desolate leper colony that has all but been abandoned by the authorities. "In this place there is no law," he is told by the thief, Boki. Pia finds that food is scarce, dead bodies go unburied, and that the traditional community values of Hawaiian culture are adhered to by only a few. Sick and starving, he is adopted by Boki who forces him to steal. Things change with the arrival of Kamaka and his sick wife. Kamaka had been a father figure to Pia, but fearful of leprosy, had refused to see Pia before the boy left home. Later the arrival of Father Damien brings love and hope for all. Hostetter's meticulous research on the history of the leprosy settlement results in a believable account of what it must have been like to be a leper at the Kalawao settlement around the 1870s and 1880s. She provides a good bibliography of resources plus information about leprosy, Father Damien, and Hawaiian culture and language, which is integrated into the story. Conversations between Pia and Damien, for example, are based on statements found in Damien's letters. This well-written novel offers teens an interesting perspective of Hawaiian history through Pia's first-person narrative, but it is also a story about anger, reconciliation, and acceptance. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up- Pia, 13, lives on the islands of Hawaii in the 1860s. He has a loving family and a lifelong older friend whom he sees as fearless, giving him guidance and direction as he grows. When Pia is discovered to have leprosy, he is shipped to Molokai, a settlement set up by the government to isolate those with the disease. He is angry about losing his family and feels betrayed by Kamaka, who abandons him when he gets sick. Once at Molokai, Pia must learn to survive at a place where people are ostracized like criminals and treated harshly. Readers follow him as he chooses between anger and love, revenge and forgiveness. The richly drawn characters and descriptions of living conditions give insight into the despair of the people and the hope that comes when a priest volunteers to live and work in the colony and bring order to its residents. This book is based on accounts of Hawaiians sent to Molokai and the work of Father Damien. However, the struggle to forgive, and the hope that love brings are timeless themes that are presented in a powerful way.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD

Kirkus Reviews
Hansen's Disease (leprosy) spells disaster for 13-year-old Pia, who finds himself, like many Hawaiians in the 1860s, exiled to Moloka‘i's isolated Kalaupapa peninsula, where he is left to fend for himself. Hostetter does a fine job of evoking the isolation, loneliness and desperation of the leprosy settlement and Pia's life away from his mother and his lifelong friend Kamaka. Pia finds relief from his misery in the teachings of the Catholic church and the arrival of Father Damien, a missionary who takes on the ostracized leprosy settlement as his flock. This inspirational tale parallels the biblical story of Jesus's healing of the leper, and Father Damien's character is based on a real-life missionary who lived in this leprosy settlement and died of complications related to the disease. He comes into the story late, however, and never fully comes to life, his purpose only to demonstrate the power of love to turn the settlement from a place of dying to a place for living. Despite this, it's a memorable story of hope in the most desperate of circumstances. (author's notes, timeline, glossary, resources) (Fiction. 10+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590785140
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 11 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Joyce Moyer Hostetter received a BA in early childhood education at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina. She continued her studies on the graduate level in special education at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and in art at James Madison University in Virginia. She lives in Newton, North Carolina.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 31, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for TeensReadToo.com

    Things will never be the same for thirteen-year-old Pia, now that he has leprosy. He will be sent off to the island of Molokai to die with others who have the same condition, ripped from the arms of his ohana, his family. No more comfort from his mother and sister, nor from the only father figure he's ever known, Kamaka. <BR/><BR/>Since even Kamaka has shunned him, and because the island of outcasts is a place with no law, Pia quickly learns to harden his heart, and to do what he must to survive for as long as he can. <BR/><BR/>This is the story of the neglect and abandonment of people, the loss of a beloved culture, and the strength of a young boy facing extreme obstacles. But most of all, this is a story of forgiveness and hope. <BR/><BR/>Joyce Moyer Hostetter, author of BLUE, tells another historical tale of an epidemic that once clutched the very souls of the inflicted and spun their lives out of control. She shows the strength and determination that can rise from those tossed into the worst imaginable conditions and she doesn't hide the ugliness that unfolds with it. It's a balanced story that explores a specific time and place with obvious accuracy and integrity, and it's woven around the personal experiences of one brave but lost boy. <BR/><BR/>Strong writing and a uniquely captivating story!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2008

    Understanding Aloha

    ¿¿I kept a little place inside that did not let go of my anger.¿ And Pia has good reason for anger. At thirteen, he must deal with a horrendous disease, being sent away from his family, and abandonment by his best friend. Pia¿s story takes place during Hawaii¿s leprosy outbreak when those who suffered from the disease were banished to a harsh isolated peninsula to endure life without those that loved them. Joyce Moyer Hostetter takes you through a period in history that isn¿t much fun to know about¿and she doesn¿t let you out of anything. If you don¿t know the true meaning of ¿aloha¿ before reading Pia¿s straight-forward tale, you will not finish his story without a full understanding of its beautiful meaning.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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