Alan Brennert comes to the blog with the second in his series that highlights the history and treatment (or maltreatment) of those of Japanese heritage in the United States.
Daughter of Moloka’i
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.
Title: Daughter of Moloka'i
Author: Alan Brennert
Series: Moloka'i #2
Genre: Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Setting: American
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Published on: 19 February, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 14 Hours: 15 minutes
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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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.