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Which Novel to Live In

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Booking Through Thursday asks if I have a pet named after my readings. The quick answer is no. My dog is actually named after George Michael because I fell in love with George Michael after Careless Whisper. However, I have been mulling over last week’s question: If you had to choose to live within a novel, which would it be?

Many places have captured my fantasies and fueled my desire for travel. The Jia’s mansion in The Dream of the Red Chamber, with the quiet courtyards and lush landscaped garden. Manderley in Rebecca but minus the ghost. Recently The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings roused nostalgic memories of Hawaii, a place I always long to reside and hopefully I can retire in. Alan Brennert’s Moloka’i, which draws on historical accounts of Kalaupapa and weaves in traditional Hawaiian stories and customs, is the story of people who had much taken from them but also gained an unexpected new family and community in the process. During my last visit to the island of Kaua’i, I took a sidetrip to Moloka’i and visited the historical leper colony. I survived the mule ride and made it down into Kalaupapa Valley, looking out to the ocean could be one of the most beautiful places I have seen.

Kalaupapa Valley is the home to Kalaupapa Leper Settlement and the story is haunting. In 1865, people on the Hawaiian islands were alarmed by the outbreak of leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) and decided to separate and isolate patients to keep it under control. Rachel Kalama, a 7-year-girl, has a pink blemish on her skin and is sent to this settlement for isolation in the novel.

That is a mild way of putting it, they were in essence banished and exiled, dropped off on ships with only as much as they could carry. There was no way out of this valley. No roads. No boats. Nothing but steep mountains that the sick could not climb. The government mistakenly thought that because they were Hawaiians they would be able to fend for themselves but because they were sick many could not and the last few years of their lives were miserable.

For years, residents of Molokaʻi have resisted attempts to dramatically increase tourism. Today Kalaupapa is also a state park. There are 30 people here from the Department of Health and 50 that work with the park. You can only stay here if you work here (no spouses) or a patient. You need to get permission to visit but there can be no more than 100 outsiders a day. No children under 16. Moloka’i is rather quiet, sequestered, and primitive. If I ever get bored here, I can always live in Kaua’i, which, to me, is the paradise on earth. I have spent many a night resting, reading, and admiring the view of the Bali-hai in my vacation condo at Hanalei Bay Resort.

I’ve always stayed here since my first time in Kauai. I never get tired of this view and I can sit in the patio all day with my book and munching on a meal or sipping a glass of wine. The view constantly changes as shreds of clouds and fog linger over the mountains.

5 Responses

  1. What a fascinating story and beautiful pictures. Thank you so much for sharing! I will have to check out Moloka’i.

  2. You named your dog after George Michael?? Love it! I listen to Wham nearly every Friday!

  3. Any novel set in Hawaii would be my ideal also. I had such a crush on George Michael too. Of course back then I didn’t know that he was gay and not interested in girls like me…ha! It’s funny how he touched so many young people. I still like his music and am sad that he’s been sick.

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