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 Kalamaquarantined for most of her life at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapawas 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 IIand 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 womendifferent in some ways, similar in otherswho 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.
About the Author
ALAN BRENNERT is the author of Honolulu, Palisades Park, and Moloka’i, which was a 2006-2007 BookSense Reading Group Pick; won the 2006 Bookies Award, sponsored by the Contra Costa Library, for the Book Club Book of the Year; and was a 2012 One Book, One San Diego Selection. He won an Emmy Award for his work as a writer-producer on the television series L.A. Law.
Read an Excerpt
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 with heart-shaped leaves like fields of valentines; and terraced rice paddies glistening in the morning sun.
As in most Catholic orphanages and schools, the Sisters of St. Francis required that the corridors remain quiet, orderly — places of silent contemplation, not to be desecrated with idle conversation. Other than this, there were only three major rules at Kapi'olani Home:
1. After breakfast no standing around talking but do your work quickly and well.
2. Do not throw your clothes on the floor nor rubbish in the yard.
3. Line up and march orderly.
Morning call sent the girls springing out of bed, into washrooms to scrub faces and comb hair, then dress. Filing quietly down corridors and into the dining hall, they went to their tables — ten girls at each one — and stood behind their chairs, joining with Sister Bonaventure in reciting the blessing:
Thank you for the world so sweet, Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing, Thank you, God, for everything. Amen.
This was followed by the scraping of sixty chairs on the floor as the girls seated themselves and ate a breakfast of poi, rice, eggs, and sausages. It was near the end of breakfast that a three-year-old girl — standing on tiptoes and peering out the dining room windows — made an exciting announcement:
As she ran delightedly out of the dining room, the other girls flocked to the windows. Yet another of Mr. Mendonca's cows, having decided that the grass was, in fact, greener on the other side the fence, was grazing contentedly on their front lawn.
"Wow, look at the size of its whatzit!" said one girl.
"I believe she needs to be milked," Sister Bonaventure noted calmly. "Now, girls, let's all get back to our —"
Too late. What moments before had been a docile group of girls eating breakfast became a stampede out of the dining hall.
On the second floor, Sister Louisa, hearing the drumbeat of footfalls below, raced down the staircase to find a raging river of girls surging past her.
And far ahead of them all was a three-year-old with amber skin and almond eyes, crying out, "Cow! Cow! Big brown cow!" at the top of her voice.
"Ruth!" Louisa immediately broke into a run herself. "Come back!"
Ruth burst out the front door, down the porch steps, and went straight to the grazing heifer, which was completely oblivious to the fuss it had stirred up.
"Hi, cow!" Ruth welcomed it. "Hi!"
Ruth stood about three feet tall; the cow, perhaps a foot taller. Ruth reached up and gently stroked the side of its neck as it chewed. "Good cow," she said, smiling. "You're a good cow."
As Sister Louisa rushed outside, she saw the child she had promised to protect petting an eight-hundred-pound Guernsey, whose right hoof, with one step, could have easily crushed the girl's small foot.
"Ruth! Please! Step back!"
But Ruth's attention was drawn to the cow's swollen udder. And what were those things sticking out of it like big fat fingers?
Intrigued, Ruth reached up and took one of the cow's teats in her hand — examining it, pulling it, squeezing it.
A stream of raw milk squirted out and into Ruth's face.
The other girls exploded into laughter. Sister Louisa pulled Ruth away from the animal. Either due to the warm, yellowish milk on her face or the mocking peal of the girls' laughter, Ruth began to cry.
"It's all right, little one," Louisa said, leading her away. "Let's go inside and wash that off your face."
The other girls clustered around the cow as the elderly Sister Helena arrived, frowning. "I do wish," she said, "that Mr. Mendonca would keep his livestock away from our live girls."
Eddie Kaohi, the Home's young groundskeeper, ran up, rope in hand. "I'll take her back where she belongs," he said, lassoing the cow's neck.
"Mahalo, Mr. Kaohi," said Sister Helena. Then, with a sigh: "Girls, really. You'd think none of you had ever seen a cow before."
"She's cute," said ten-year-old Addie as she swatted a fly away from the cow's face. "She has the prettiest eyes!"
Sister Helena gazed into the heifer's soulful brown eyes, her stern face softening. "Yes," she allowed, "I suppose she does."
* * *
In the bathroom Sister Louisa scrubbed Ruth's face with soap and water and asked her, "So what have you learned today, Ruth?"
"Cows shoot milk."
Louisa stifled a laugh. "That's why only dairy farmers should touch a cow's udder, not little girls who could get hurt."
"They laughed at me," Ruth said in a small voice. "Again."
"Again? When have the girls laughed at you before?"
"When I showed 'em my gecko."
Ah yes, the gecko. "Only because the gecko decided to run down the front of your dress."
"Ran away. I loved it and it ran away!"
"I know." Ruth loved every animal she had ever met. On a trip to the Honolulu Zoo, Ruth was enchanted by the monkeys, lions, swans, and Daisy, the African elephant. Sometimes Louisa thought the child would embrace a boa constrictor but for the welcome fact that there were no snakes in Hawai'i.
"An' they yelled at Ollie," Ruth lamented, "an' scared him away too!"
"Ollie was the mouse?"
"Some of the younger girls were scared of Ollie," Louisa explained gently. "That's why they were yelling and — well, screaming."
"He was so cute!"
"I thought so too."
"They hate me," Ruth declared.
"No, they don't. They just don't love animals the way you do."
Ruth's face flushed with shame. "One girl called me a bad name."
Louisa straightened, concerned. "Who did?"
"What did she call you, Ruth?"
Ruth looked down and said quietly, "Hapa. She called me hapa."
Louisa laughed with relief. "Ruth, that isn't a bad word. It's just a Hawaiian word. It means half."
"Yes. Like if I gave you a cookie, then split it into two pieces and took away one piece, you'd have half of what I gave you."
Ruth's face wrinkled in confusion. "She called me a cookie?"
"Well, your papa was Japanese and your mama was Hawaiian, and so you're half Japanese and half Hawaiian. Hapa. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the word."
Ruth wasn't so sure. It still sounded like Velma was calling her half a cookie, which anyone knew wasn't as a good as a whole cookie.
"Can I meet my papa? And my mama?"
Louisa said softly, "I don't know, Ruth. Maybe someday."
Ruth considered that. "Sister Lu?"
"Can I have a pet worm?"
Louisa did her best to reply with the same gravity as Ruth's question. "Well, you see, worms live underground. So if you wanted to have a pet worm, you'd have to live underground too. It's dark and cold and wet down there. I really don't think you'd like it."
The sister tenderly straightened Ruth's hair and said, "Let's go to the playroom, all right?"
* * *
Due to public fear and prejudice, children of leprous parents were banned from attending public or private schools. But the Board of Education did, at least, provide the sisters with schoolroom equipment, and the Free Kindergarten and Children's Aid Association had years ago established a kindergarten at Kapi'olani Home and assisted the order in its operation. Girls from six to fifteen were taught by Sister Valeria Gerdes, who gave lessons in arithmetic and English.
After classes, the older girls sewed shirts and dresses for inmates at Kalaupapa — some of them, perhaps unwittingly, for their own parents.
Saturdays were housekeeping days and Sundays were for Mass and Benediction, but they were holy in another way: they were visiting days for friends and family — 'ohana, a word Ruth knew, even if she had no use for it.
Ruth would listen as a brass bell rang, announcing the arrival of a visitor, and young Sister Praxedes would enter the dormitory to inform Maile that her uncle had come to see her, or Freda that her cousins from Wai'anae had arrived, or Addie that her friends from Kaimuki were here. The girls would jump off their beds, thrilled, and rush out of the room.
No bell ever rang for Ruth.
Until, one day, it did.
Sister Praxedes came in unexpectedly that afternoon and told her, "Ruth, there's a nice gentleman and lady here who want to meet you!"
Ruth, who knew no one outside the Home, could only think of one thing. She asked hopefully, "Are they my mama and papa?"
"They might be. They're looking for a little girl to adopt. To make part of their family."
"Really?" Ruth said excitedly.
Most of the time, when a resident girl was adopted, she was taken by relatives or friends in what was called a hanai adoption. But occasionally a couple with no relation to anyone in the Home would come seeking a girl to adopt. Usually these were Native Hawaiians, who were less afraid of leprosy and less mindful of the stigma that attached itself to children of lepers.
Ruth had watched as other girls were chosen to meet potential parents, but now, for the first time, she was taken to the Home's library where she was introduced to a man and woman, both Hawaiian. Ruth's heart raced with a new feeling — hope — as the man smiled warmly at her.
"Such a pretty little wahine. What's your name, keiki?" he asked, using the Hawaiian word for "child."
"Ruth," she answered, seeing kindness in his eyes.
"How old are you, Ruth?" the lady asked.
Ruth counted off three fingers on her hand. "T'ree?" she said uncertainly.
"Very good, Ruth," Sister Praxedes said, then, to the couple: "Ruth is a very bright little girl."
"Do you want a real home, Ruth, with a mama and a papa?" he asked.
"Oh yes!" Ruth cried out. "I do!"
The nice couple laughed and smiled, asked her a few more questions, then told her she was very sweet and thanked her for seeing them. Sister Praxedes escorted Ruth back to her dormitory and Ruth excitedly began wondering what her new home would be like, would she have brothers and sisters, would they have pets? She started planning which of her scant belongings she would pack first, until Sister Praxedes returned to tell her regretfully, "I'm so sorry, Ruth. They chose another girl."
Crushed by the weight of her hopes, Ruth asked, "Din't they like me?"
"They liked you fine, Ruth, it's just —"
"'Cause I'm hapa?" she asked, forlorn.
"No no, not at all. These things are hard to understand, Ruth."
She left, and Freda, a world-wise nine-year-old, said, "Same t'ing wen happen to me too. Sometimes they don't choose nobody at all. Don't let it get you down, yeah?"
Ruth nodded gratefully but felt no better.
Later, before lights out, Sister Lu came into the dorm, gave Ruth a hug, and assured her she would be chosen by someone, someday. "And meanwhile you have a home here and someone who loves you very much."
The warmth of Sister's embrace cast out the chill of rejection ... for now.
Over the course of the next year, three more couples would ask to see Ruth. With each request her heart soared like a kite and after each rejection she was dashed to earth, convinced there was something lacking in her. She was hapa, half, incomplete. Half a cookie; who would want that? And eventually she learned a valuable lesson: she learned not to hope.
* * *
On Sunday evenings the parish priest would preside over the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and as the older girls sang prayers and devotions in the chapel, the youngest sat in a classroom, supervised by an older girl whose job was to read Bible stories to them. On the last Sunday night of October 1920 — which also happened to be All Hallow's Eve — that girl was Maile, who extinguished all the lights in the room save for a lone candle and regaled the little girls with a less devout tale about an obake that resided inside a koa tree. When the tree was cut down for lumber, the things made from it — a spear, a calabash, the handle of a knife — all contained a piece of the ghost, which was not at all happy at being dismembered and set about doing the same thing to everyone who owned a piece of that koa wood.
Ruth — now four years old — grew bored and quietly left the room. At first she intended to return to bed, but as she stood in the corridor she heard something that sounded like ... whimpering? But not a human whimpering.
Curious, Ruth went into an empty classroom, stood on tiptoe at a window, and looked out.
It was dark and cloudy and the only light on the grounds came from the flicker of candles in the chapel. Ruth managed to push open the window an inch or two. Now she could tell that the whimpering was clearly coming from the side of the road — Meyers Street — bordering the convent.
Then she saw a shadow detach itself from the dark contours of a noni, mulberry, bush. It shuffled on four legs, low to the ground, until its hindquarters dropped and it sat there in the dimness.
It was a dog!
Ruth had seen dogs before — some of the local farmers owned them, and she even got to pet one once. Thrilled, she raced out of the classroom and out the back door. As she rounded the Home, she saw the dog sitting on the side of the road, whining plaintively.
She slowed down and approached it.
"Hi, dog," she said softly. "Hi."
It turned its head to her and its black eyes, ringed in amber, shone in the darkness.
Ruth got close enough to gently, cautiously, stroke its back. It didn't object. "Good dog," she said happily.
It was a scruffy, medium-sized mutt with matted, light brown fur — but to Ruth it was the most beautiful dog she had ever seen. As she petted it, it stopped whimpering, rubbing its wet nose against her arm. She scratched under its chin, its head tipped up and its mouth opened in a smile.
As she stroked its side she could feel its bony ribs.
"You hungry?" she asked. "I'll get some food. You stay here, okay?" When she got up and moved away the dog started to follow, but she put up a hand and said, as loudly as she dared, "No! Stay here. I'll be back."
The dog stopped, sat. "Good doggie!" she whispered, then ran back into the Home, down the corridor, and into the kitchen.
Maria Nunes, the Home's Portuguese cook, was washing the last of the supper dishes when Ruth burst in and announced, "I'm hungry!"
Maria had to smile at the urgency in the little girl's voice. "Didn't you finish your supper tonight?"
"I did. But I'm still hungry."
"Well ..." Maria went to the big icebox and opened it. "We got a little Sunday ham left over ... I can make you a sandwich, you like?"
"Oh yes. Thank you!" Ruth said.
A minute later, Ruth accepted the fat sandwich, thanked Maria again, and rushed out of the kitchen. She worried that the dog might have left, but when she emerged from the Home, he — he seemed like a "he"— was still sitting patiently where she had left him.
"Good dog!" She tore off a chunk of sandwich and offered it on the palm of her hand. His tongue ladled it up and into his mouth, and Ruth giggled at the pleasant tickle of it on her skin. She tore off another chunk and he wolfed that down too, then another, until the sandwich was gone and he was licking the last crumbs of bread from her palm.
She was petting him when she suddenly heard the sound of a door opening, followed by footsteps. She turned quickly. Benediction was over, and the sisters and older girls were leaving the chapel.
Skittish, the dog sprang to his feet and ran away down the road.
Ruth watched, disappointed, as he seemed to melt away into the darkness; but her palm was still wet from his tongue, a nice feeling.
Before anyone could see her, she hurried back into the Home. She went to bed thinking happily of her new friend.
All day she stole glances out the windows, but there was no sign of the dog. At dinner she was careful not to eat all of her chicken and mashed potatoes, but squirreled away the remainder into her napkin and stuffed it into the pocket of her dress.
At bedtime Ruth hid the napkin under her blanket as she changed into her pajamas, then slid under the covers. When the air became heavy with the rhythmic breathing of sleeping girls, Ruth took the napkin filled with food and went into the washroom. Above a toilet stall was a single window, lit faintly by moonlight. Ruth climbed onto the toilet seat, then up onto the back of the toilet, and quietly pushed up the window as high as she could.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Daughter of Moloka'i"
Copyright © 2019 Alan Brennert.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: Hapa,
Part Two: Gaman,
Part Three: 'Ohana,
Also by Alan Brennert,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Having not read the first in this series, I was hoping that Brennert would be generous with the world-building and backstory here, and he was: through the first half of the book the story was slow moving but presented background and information needed to understand Ruth’s story and the revelations that she is discovering as she grows. And the first half of the story was slow to develop, interesting for those who enjoy historic fiction and setting the tone for the time with discussion of internment camps established after the attack of Pearl Harbor, the dangers of ‘demonizing’ a group or ethnicity and the layers of confusion, anger, and grief that becomes second nature to those who, through chance of birth, were persecuted. Alone, the first half of the book was a lovely read that presented plenty of food for thought and had moments that were laden with that mix of fact and fiction that readers who appreciate a tale with their history can enjoy. And then the book dove deep! Ruth’s history is uncovered as she finally meets her birth mother: a Hawaiian woman who, with her Japanese husband, was confined in the leprosy settlement – giving up their daughter when she was an infant. Her connection to the pieces of herself (the Hawaiian bits) that she didn’t really know because her adoptive parents, wonderful people, were Japanese and she was raised in that culture with no connection to ‘before’. The examination of the cultures and expectations of both ‘halves’ of Ruth, finding the similarities and differences in traditions and approaches. The connection that Ruth has to the family who raised her, and the one she feels for the woman who birthed her don’t come into conflict (surprisingly) and the understanding that Ruth finds with meeting her mother Rachel brings readers and Ruth a sense of ‘completeness’ that fills the heart. What emerges is a lovely tale that explains and details multiple injustices to these women, the prejudices and maltreatment suffered at the hands of ‘power’, and the resiliency of the cultural pride and traditions, a certain ‘rightness of being’ in following traditions and beliefs about family, honor, compassion and retribution that have existed for centuries. Brennert managed to infuse the story with the opportunity for empathy and anger from the readers as the injustices are presented, not unemotionally but all the more pointed for what I am sure will be ‘newness’ for many readers. Injustices that, once uncovered, are hard to justify and ignore – and as with most books that open a horizon, allow you to see the world, and its treatment of others with a fresh eye toward fairness and just treatments. Just a bonus to what was a lovely story that makes me need to know Rachel better and I’ve grabbed the first in the series to remedy that. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Daughter of Moloka’i (Moloka’i #2) by Alan Brennert February 2019 Fiction, historical St.Martin’s Press and NetGalley I received a digital copy of this ARC from NetGalley and St Martin’s Press in exchange for an unbiased review. Originally published in 2004, Moloka’i (book 1) by Alan Brennert provides a richly detailed history of Rachel Kalama’s life growing up in a leper colony on Moloka’i, Hawai’i during 1891 to 1948. “Kalaupapa had evolved from a “given grave” where the afflicted could only wait for death to a place where people lived as well as died.” Rachel lived a full, meaningful life on Kalaupapa where she married Kenji Utagawa. In 1918, they made the heart wrenching decision to put their only child up for adoption. Once it was determined that Ruth was not afflicted she was sent to live in Kapi’olani Home, an orphanage. Daughter of Moloka’i provides a parallel history of Hawai’i from the perspective experienced by Ruth Utagawa during 1891 to 1948. The historical aspects of life during these years is not overlooked. The author provides well-researched information which allows the reader to understand the hardships and devastation of the time. Ruth was adopted by Taizo and Etsuko Watanabe, a Japanese family, with 3 boys desperately wanting a girl to add to their family. She eventually goes on to marry Frank Haradas and have 2 children of her own. The stories entwine to provide perspectives of family life and loyalty. Although this novel could easily “stand alone” the emotional family history is enhanced with the “complete” story explained in Moloka’i.
Enjoyable read on a Maui vacation. Makes me want to learn more about Molika'i.
Summary: In the Kapi’olani Home for Girls on O’ahu, three-year-old Ruth is a lively handful. Ruth loves animals and wants a pet of her own. But as loving as the nuns in the Catholic orphanage are, they must maintain the strict rules and can’t allow Ruth to be an exception. But Ruth is already an exception in the Hawaiian orphanage. While all the other girls are also children of lepers, they are of pure Hawaiian heritage. Ruth is different. She is hapa, someone of mixed heritage. Ruth is half Japanese, born to her parents who met in the leper colony on Moloka’i. When potential adoptive parents meet her, they turn away, not wanting to take on a child who not only carries the stigma of leprosy but is also hapa. Finally, a Japanese couple adopts Ruth. She becomes Ruth Dai Watanabe and lives with her two brothers and new parents in Chinatown. She learns to speak Japanese and is taught their customs. Ruth thrives in the love of her adoptive family, but she is still hapa. The novel follows Ruth as her family moves to California. There she grows up and has a family of her own. But after the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Ruth and all the other people of Japanese descent on the west coast are rounded up in concentration camps or sent back to Japan. After the camps are closed, Ruth and her family return to California to try to put their lives back together. It is after going through all this that Ruth gets a surprise and finally learns to accept her heritage. Comments: I absolutely loved the first Moloka'i book and wasn’t disappointed by this sequel, Daughter of Moloka'i. While the first takes place almost exclusively on the island, this one reflects the changes in the treatment of lepers, both socially and medically, and moves to the greater world. A large portion of the book takes place in the Japanese internment camps and from the resources listed in the back of the book, I know the descriptions and details were well researched. In writing about Ruth’s mixed heritage and the atrocity of rounding up the Japanese Americans (and not rounding up the German Americans, for example), the author makes some profound observations of what it’s like to be non-white in America. What happened to the Japanese is not “in the past”. It happened and continues to happen to Native Americans, Blacks and currently to Hispanics and others. Fear and ignorance are powerful forces that destroy people’s lives. Highly recommended for readers of Historical Fiction, General Fiction and Literary Fiction.
A fantastic story that will resonate with the reader long after the back cover is closed. The characters in this book are so rich the reader will forget they are fictional. Alan Brennert shows the strengths and flaws with equal measure – enduring them to us even if we don’t like what they do. Vivid pictures of each person are developed through specific details and readily flowing dialogue. The horror of the way the United States treated innocent Japanese Americans and their families during WWII is brought to the forefront. The book describes the uninhabitable camps, the reprehensible way they were forced to live, and the maltreatment displayed in everyday life. The descriptions are clear and the reader has little trouble in picturing the filthy conditions. I loved this book. The story will resonate with the reader long after the back cover is closed.
Overall, I enjoyed reading "Daughter of Molokia'i." I liked the book but the experience was not enough to make me fall in love with it. The historical background on the Japanese immigration to the U.S., their hardship during and after WWII was interesting. There were other historical aspects other than the internment which I enjoyed reading about as well. Other excellent qualities about the book were the likable characters and the well-researched plot. There were few moments drove me in tears; Alan Brennert definitely has the talent to tell a good, positive story. The only complain I had possibly was the plain narration of the live of Dai (or Ruth) between 1917 to 1970. Some chapters were particular interesting but some were less captivating. "Daughter of Moloka's" is the sequel to "Moloka'i." It could be read as a standalone. It's a book more a 3.8/5 stars to me. Nothing disappointing about the story. Indeed quite enjoyable throughout yet lack of surprises. I rounded the rating up to 4 stars based on my overall enjoyment.
I didn't read the first book "Miloka'i by Alan Brennert, but ..I will have to go back and read it. This book was an emotional read for me; as I learned a lot about things I wasn't well aware of that happened to the Japanese in Hawaii during WWII. It made me realize how much of history we do not know. Alan Brennert can definitely deliver a book that makes you look at everything around you differently! It is beautifully written and you will find that you cannot put it down.
The sequel to Moloka'i begins in 1917 with baby Ruth Utagawa being delivered to the Kapi'olani Home for Girls in O'ahu by Sister Catherine Voorheis. Ruth's parents are inmates at the leper colony in Kalaupapa and are not allowed by law to keep their baby. Ruth is part Hawaiian and part Japanese (hapa) and at age five, she comes to be adopted by a Japanese couple, the Watanabes. Taizo Watanabe is offered land to farm in California by his older brother, Jiro, and the couple is lured there by the chance of a better life. Unfortunately all is not as promised and some harsh realities must be faced. But worst of all is the amount of racial prejudice they encounter. The years go by, bringing the Depression and the Dust bowl...and then the dark days of WWII and the war hysteria which results in the forced internment in camps of all Japanese people living in America, including the Watanabe family. This is a moving family saga which shines a light on the tragedy of racial prejudice and its effects on people's lives. And although it is beautifully written and touching, the last half of the book seemed a bit of a never-ending slog to me. Perhaps if I had read Moloka'i first, I might have felt more invested in the characters and the drama of their lives. I'm not entirely convinced families are as accepting and inclusive as these people seemed to be. It would be nice if it were so. I found myself waiting for the book to bring something new to my understanding of this period of history and was disappointed that it really didn't. I've read several very good books along the same lines that I can highly recommend as well, such as: Snow Falling on Cedars; Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet; When the Emperor Was Divine; and The Translation of Love, to name a few. I received an arc from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. I appreciate the opportunity.
Moloka'i is, simply put, a fascinating, endearing, haunting, and compelling story about Rachel Kalama, a character that invades and remains in one's heart. Rachel was torn from her family in Honolulu and exiled to Molokai, where she remained quarantined for more than 50 years in Kalaupapa, an isolated leprosy settlement. She was fortunate to meet a wonderful man, Kenji, and marry, but they were heartbroken when they were forced to give their only child, daughter Ruth, up a few hours after her birth. After one year in isolation on Molokai -- during which her parents could only visit her with a glass wall separating them -- Ruth was put up for adoption. Daughter of Molokai follows Ruth from her arrival at the Kapi'olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption at age 5 by a Japanese couple. After a few years happily growing up in Honolulu with her parents and older brothers, the family relocates to Florin, California, a small town near Sacramento. Her family joins her father's brother and his family on their strawberry and Flame Tokay grape farm. Rachel marries Frank and the two of them are happily running a local business and raising their two young children when the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changes everything. Rachel and family are forced to leave everything behind and enter an internment camp, eventually assigned to Manzanar Relocation Camp. After the war, her life is again changed when she intercepts a letter to her parents from a woman who claims to be Ruth’s birth mother, Rachel. At that point, the two books overlap. Moloka'i was Rachel's story and her eventual relationship with Ruth was not described in detail or from Ruth's point of view. That aspect of the story is related in Daughter of Molokai. Author Alan Brennert has crafted a worthy follow up to Moloka'i. It is an equally rich tale, focused upon Ruth's upbringing in a Japanese family, struggle to understand why her mother gave her up, and challenges as a person who is hapa (of both Hawaiian and Japanese descent) living in the Japanese community. Scrupulously researched, Daughter of Molokai explores the extreme prejudice toward Japanese nationals, as well as their children and grandchildren, in California which was exacerbated on a national scale when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Brennert describes, in heartbreaking detail, the indignities to which Ruth and her family are subjected during World War II, illustrating the different ways in which the various family members respond. And he fully explores the reunion of Rachel and her beloved only child and the relationship they are at long last able to forge. Rachel deems it nothing less than a miracle, brought about the cure for leprosy, later known as Hansen's Disease, developed in the 1940's. From Ruth's perspective, meeting her mother allows her to discover the truth about her past, and develop an understanding and appreciation of the Hawaiian culture. Like Molokai, Daughter of Molokai is a beautiful story, full of historical and cultural detail that leaves the reader richer for the experience of having read the book. Brennert's love of the Hawaiian and Japanese people is evident in the accurate, yet compassionate, manner in which he tells the story of his characters' lives. Daughter of Molokai is poignant, emotionally satisfying, and powerfully eloquent. I enthusiastically give it, and Molokai, my strongest recommendation. Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
Daughter of Moloka’i is a lovely written novel by Alan Brennert and is the companion book to Moloka’i. Although I did not read the first book, I was able to jump right into this book. I do plan to go back and read the first book. This book is a sweeping historical fiction that follows the life of Ruth Utagawa. She was born in 1917 on the leper colony, Kalaupapa, on the island of Moloka’i and is taken from her parents and brought to Kapi’olani orphanage on Honolulu, where she lives until a Japanese couple adopts her. The family then moves to California and life becomes difficult for Ruth’s family. I enjoyed the twists and turned that Ruth’s life takes and how the author interweaves history throughout the book. Mr. Brennert does an outstanding job with character development. I especially loved the relationship that develops between Ruth and her adoptive parents, Etsuko, Taizo and their three sons, and later in the book the relationship she develops with her birth mother. This book was very well researched. I enjoyed the in-depth description of Hawaiian and Japanese culture. Mr. Brennert majestically captures the raw beauty of Hawaii in his storytelling, to where I could feel the warm trade winds like I was in Hawaii. Also, he almost entirely, in my opinion, delves into a dark period of American history where Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps during WWII. There was one small problem that I had, and that was the comparison between what Japanese Americans experienced and what the Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis. Overall this was an exceptional book, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to read it. I would recommend this book if you enjoy reading about one women’s struggles and the joy she discovers in spite of them — happy Reading. ***I kindly received an ARC of this book by way of NetGalley/publisher/author. I was not contacted, asked or required to leave a review. I received no compensation, financial or otherwise. I have voluntarily read this book, and this review my honest opinion .***
Brennert traverses the nuances of racism, fear of contagion, and human rights as he tells of the horror of being found out as a victim of leprosy in late 19th / early 20th century Hawai’i, and the dread of a child separated from her family to live with strangers. As with especially well-written historical fiction, the setting of Hawai’i / Moloka’i becomes its own character, showing Hawai’i’s children growing up surfing, the US stealing the islands from the last monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, and the evolution of the lazaretto. Brennert touches upon Hawai’ian and Japanese honor, race relations and the lack of internment camps for Japanese in Hawai’i. He digs deep into Hawai’ian folklore, with a supporting character who is a native healer, how the “separating sickness” destroys families, and how friendship blends into family. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this beautiful novel from St. Martin’s Press. I highly recommend reading Moloka’i for full immersion into the multi-generational story.
This was a very well written story with many diverse multidimensional characters. It told of a dark period in American history that is often overlooked and seldom explored or taught in classrooms.But the story goes beyond that to a family of Japanese and Hawaiian descendants and the life they lived and loved through the many emotional upheavals experienced that became part of their everyday existence. They became survivals in the face of adversity. They were forced to gaman...and they did. Daughter of Moloka’i was a great read and such be included in school libraries and especially in the WWII supplemental reading lists.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I read Moloka'i so was quite pleased to be approved to read the sequel. BUT not feeling the love or joining the fans who did. Just didn't do it for me. Certainly readable and somewhat informative but not enough. In fact, sometimes bored. Covers 1917 [Prologue] to 1970 [end of story]. What did I like? I loved Etsuko. Cared for Ruth, Taizo, and Rachel. And the rest of Ruth's adopted family. Story about being Japanese in Hawaii was quite informative [the first part of book--prior to relocating to California]. However, this follow-up just didn't have the impact of the first book. Some of the peripheral characters seemed like cardboard caricatures. Thought enough--could have [and did] read Farewell to Manzanar [which Brennert cites--among other books--in the extensive Author's Notes]. Didn't really learn anything new about the Japanese internment camps. The book is about family, self-discovery, and Japanese internment camps. I did learn something about strawberry farming [and the Japanese and farming in California]. And the political climate in the US at the time. A bit about leprosy--harkening back to the first book and having to deal with Ruth's eventual reuniting with Rachel [no spoiler alert needed--it's all in the blurbs]. And though there were some "oy," syrupy moments; there were also a [very] few instances where I really liked the prose: "But letting go of life was not the same as embracing death." So, if you liked the first book, you will probably want to read this one. And, you may be in the majority of those who loved it.
This book drew me and and kept me rooting for the main character, educated me on a piece of American history that I only understood in the slightest of ways, and brought me for a ride through this character's and family's lives. I would highly recommend this book if you want a well written story with characters that have depth and make you feel deeply for what they endure and accomplish.
Moloka'i and Daughter of Moloka’i are two superlatively written novels. Having once lived on two Hawai’i’s Islands, I found myself back in the beauty and life of Hawai'i. One cannot live on an island in Hawai'i without becoming conversant with the locals, or as the native Hawaiians are known, the kama'ainas and learning from the natives. I chose to read Brennert’s first novel Moloka'i before reading Daughter of Moloka'i due to my ties to Hawai'i. However, I want to be clear for the readers' sake; it is not prerequisite for you to read the books consecutively. Brennert wrote both novels masterfully, and this manifests itself throughout each novel. It is unmistakable that Brennert was well acquainted with Hawai’i and its history. Brennert's novels are poignant and beautifully written, and he presents his stories to the reader, inviting the reader to experience the beauty of the Islands, as well the emotions as you traverse through Moloka'i and its sequel Daughter of Moloka’i. Brennert makes this possible through his ability to write a vivid portrayal of Hawaiian life. Brennert thoroughly and meticulously depicts his extensive knowledge of Hawai'i’s traditions and customs, some of which continue today. Daughter of Moloka’i permeates compassion, sorrow, loneliness, love, loss joy, and a multitude of other emotions while depicting an accurate historical picture of life in Hawai'i on the island of Moloka'i, the island where those found with leprosy were once banished to live out their lives. Ruth, the daughter of a leper, was sent to Kapi'olani Home for Girls in Honolulu and saved from being sent to the island of Moloka'i. Ruth was adopted from the Kapi'olani Home for Girls by a Japanese family that would eventually leave Honolulu, and relocate to California. There was nostalgia in Brennert's novels Moloka'i and Daughter of Moloka’i, and I found each to be affecting. Brennert wrote of places and things indigenous to Hawai'i that remain rooted in my memory today as if I were still a kama'aina, a Hawaiian resident, although typically of Hawaiian heritage. When Brennert used familiar terms such as "haole," I found myself knowingly smiling, remembering this as the Hawaiian term for foreigners or Caucasians that inhabit the islands. To this day after having read Moloka'i and Brennert's sequel Daughter of Moloka'i, I have a longing; I long for Hawai'i, the Hawaiian people, and the Hawaiian way of life. Whether you have visited Hawai'i or not, there is so much history to be garnered by reading Brennert’s novels. I strongly recommend Brennert's Moloka'i and Daughter of Moloka'i historical novels. You may also feel a tugging from within to return to the only place I have found where there is 'A'ole wikiwiki, no hurry. Brennert's writing is engaging nonfiction with elements of fiction arising throughout Moloka'i and Daughter of Moloka'i. His characters are well defined and developed, so they flow with his plot; one of the most well-structured plots I’ve seen. Brennert may give you the impression that only a true kama'aina could write two novels so precisely and thoughtfully, but for now, Alan Brennert is a haole that loves the Hawaiian life as is perceived in the writings of Moloka'i and Daughter of Moloka'i. I want to thank Alan Brennert, St. Martins Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review DAUGHTER OF Moloka'i: A Novel. D.B. Moone
A few years ago I read the book Moloka'i by Alan Brennert for my local book club and everyone enjoyed it. When I saw that the sequel was in the works, I was very excited to see Rachel's story continue. Daughter of Moloka'i is a book about Rachel's daughter, Ruth, who was born inside a lepers' colony in 1917. Because Rachel was quarantined for most of her life to due leprosy, (those with the disease were forced to live on Moloka'i and be quarantined...a life sentence), Rachel was forced to give up her daughter for adoption immediately after birth. This book continues the story of Ruth's life after she was adopted. This book is divided into three parts: Hapa (a native Hawaiian word that means half - Ruth is half Japanese and half Hawaiian) Gaman: Japanese term of Buddhist origin that means "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity: Ohana: Hawaiian word that means family The first part details Ruth's life in the orphanage, and her transition into her new life as an adopted daughter. The story follows this family's journeys to begin a new life in California in the 1920s. Ruth is adopted into a loving Japanese family and she quickly learns what it means to be Japanese and learn their customs and traditions. They begin a new chapter in California where there are many anti-Japanese groups in the Sacramento area. As time passes, and the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor occurs, President FDR then orders for all residents of Japanese descent (citizens or not), to be sent to live in the Internment Camps. The second part of the book is about their life preparing to go, and to eventually live in the Internment Camps. This sparked my curiosity in learning more about the families who made up the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were sent to live in these awful camps for 1-2 years. The family endured hardships, both physically and emotionally, (they lived in a horse stall!), but were committed to stick together in order to endure. The third part of the book centers around an adult Ruth, who is learning the story of her origins and how her family grows and adapts as she reconnects with her past. This is my 3rd novel to enjoy by Alan Brennert and his writing is very strong, thoroughly researched, and really draws you in. His character driven novels draw you close to Rachel and her family. I truly enjoyed the book!
Beautiful and breathtaking! Heartwarming and emotional! This was a fantastic sequel to Moloka'i and I was delighted to return to the story of Rachel and Ruth. This was wonderfully written. Returning to Rachel's story felt like reconnecting with a cherished friend. The author's beautiful writing tugged at my heart and left me crying on many occasions. Thank you, Alan Brennert, St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for a digital ARC!
Definitely a must read if you loved Moloka'i. Such a moving story. I didn't think I would like a sequel as much, but it is truly a great read!
I've read Molokai and was really stricken by the story and the research done by Alan Brennert so I expected this one to be anything less and it surely lived up to my high expectations. I was so intrigued by the relationship between Ruth and Rachel and how Ruth kept her hidden from society because she had leprosy. The one thing I love about historical fiction novels that if the story is so compelling, it brings the historical time period to life and it's easy to imagine. This book has done that and more and I must say by far one of my favorites I have read so far. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
4.5 stars Daughter Of Moloka’i is a well-written, poignant, and bittersweet novel. The story begins in 1916, in Moloka’i Hawaii, a place designated for people with Hansen’s disease (Leprosy). When Ruth was born to parents suffering from the disease, she was taken from them, within an hour of her birth. Ruth was brought up in an orphanage, run by nuns, until she was adopted by Japanese immigrants, living in Honolulu. Ruth loved her parents but often wondered why her biological parents had given her away. Ruth was content with her life in Hawaii until her Uncle convinced her father to move to California. The opportunity he was offered, was supposed to be, a wonderful one. It wasn’t. It was a scam. But after her father uprooted his family and moved to America, it was too late to turn back. Being taken advantage of was not the worse thing, that happened to Ruth’s family in California. WWII was about to break out, and with it, Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. The President’s reaction to the Japanese invasion was to gather, isolate, and relocate all Japanese immigrants and their family members, to less than ideal internment camps. Everyone who was sent to these camps had given up their homes, farms, businesses, and belongings. Many of these people with Japanese parents and grandparents were US citizens, but sent to camps, just the same. Daughter Of Moloka’i is a compelling and engaging book, well-crafted and researched. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
This book is a sequel to “Moloka’i” -- I read it in 2014 (loved it) and I was a bit worried that I’d forgotten too much from that book. Alan Brennert does an excellent job reminding viewers of key elements from that book in just the right places. The author is a fantastic storyteller and has created memorable characters. I do recommend reading these books in order though for the most magical reading experience. The first half of this book is Ruth’s story, she’s the daughter of Rachel and Kenji from book #1. Raised by nuns, she is eventually adopted by a Japanese family and moves to California. I must admit that I didn’t enjoy the California setting as much as the parts of the book set in Hawaii. There is a great deal of historical material here in the first half about the internment camps, especially the California ones, during WWII. I found this part uncomfortable to read, especially considering our current political climate. The Japanese people were treated abominably in these camps. I love that Rachel finds her way back into this story and the reader is taken back to Hawaii. There are so many fantastic emotional elements with mothers and daughter in this book and I was brought to tears in a few places. This sweeping saga covers several generations and is well worth a read. I highly recommend it as well as the first book if you haven’t read that one. Now I’m curious if there will be a book #3 in this series.
These two books—Molokai and Daughter of Moloka’i—have turned out to be some of the best books I’ve read in years. I’d had Moloka’i on my to-read list since 2013, but only got around to reading it this January, 2019, when I took a trip to Honolulu. It was perfect for the flight and I got to read about a place I was visiting, perfect. But the book became so much more than that. The writing was beautiful, I probably teared up about fifteen times, and I ended the book with a deep sadness that it was over and I was never again going to experience this amazing book for the first time. Lo and behold, I come home from my Hawaiian vacation to find the author has written a sequel, and even though there are fifteen years between the books, I came onto the scene at exactly the right time. Daughter of Moloka’i was to be published in only a month, and better yet, it was available for request on Netgalley. I received the ARC and devoured the sequel just as I devoured its predecessor. In a way, it’s hard to rate the books individually. Most of Moloka’i happens at the same time as Daughter of Moloka’i, though they only overlap in a few places, and these places were the only times I felt bored. If I’d had even a few months between books, this likely wouldn’t have bothered me at all. They are both such touching, heart-wrenching, exquisitely painful books. If you are bothered by reading of another’s plight, these books are not for you. They will gut you. But they are still so, so worth it. The lyrical prose, the well-rounded characters, the tackling of difficult and complex issues, these books have it all. Both have sweet love stories, though they are not the main focus, but they are, more than anything, the saga of a blended, extended family living through the most harrowing times and places in the Western United States. From a Hawaiian orphanage to rural California and the anti-Japanese racism that eventually led to the internment camps, Ruth’s story was ever-evolving and always interesting. At times, it was almost too hard to read about the suffering some of these people went through—similar to reading about the leper colonies—but I still couldn’t put the book down. These stories need to be told. I didn’t know Japanese internment had occurred at all until I was I college, and I live about twenty minutes from one of the camps. It was simply never taught in schools or talked about in polite conversation. Yet how many books are there on the Holocaust? To forget this dark episode in our history is to risk it happening again. Suffice it to say these books had an impact on me. They are both going on my list of all-time favorites and I hope, for all our sakes, that it doesn’t take the author fifteen years to come out with another wonderful, mind-expanding work of art. Now, more than ever, these are the types of books we need. I received an ARC from St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.