Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1917-1970 Honolulu, Hawaii and California (Florin, Manzanar Relocation Center, and San Jose)
***I received an eARC copy of Daughter of Moloka’i from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, via NetGalley***
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Review: Compelling and sad historical fiction. Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert is a companion novel to the marvelous Moloka’i which told the story of Rachel, who was stricken with leprosy and lived on the island of Moloka’i. Rachel has a daughter, named Ruth, and Daughter of Moloka’i is Ruth’s story.
Daughter of Moloka’i starts off in Honolulu, and then soon moves to the farmlands of Florin, California, which is near Sacramento. Ruth, who is half Hawaiian and half Japanese, is adopted by a Japanese couple, and flourishes in her new life and family. I loved the characters of Ruth’s adopted parents, Taizo and Etsuko Watanabe, and also Ruth’s brothers. Both Taizo and Etsuko exhibited quiet strength that holds their family together while experiencing racism upon arriving in California and also during the horrific internment camps of WWII. The sections of the book set at the Manzanar Relocation Center were tough to read and intense.
I liked Ruth well enough. I didn’t connect with her as much as I did with Rachel, from Moloka’i, and so couldn’t muster up a whole lot of enthusiasm when reading her story, but I still was interested in what she was doing and what was happening in her life.
While reading Daughter of Moloka’i I couldn’t help comparing it to Moloka’i, and while it was a good historical fiction read, I didn’t love it the way I loved Moloka’i. Daughter of Moloka’i is quite good, but they are very different books. For me, I couldn’t connect to it and the characters as well. I found it to be overly sad, and while there are happy moments in the book, and some lovely characters, I just felt an overwhelming sadness while reading this. You don’t need to have read Moloka’i in order to appreciate Daughter of Moloka’i. The two books highlight each other, and each tell a complete story, and while we get a continuation of Rachel’s story here, enough is explained about her past that you won’t feel lost while reading.
Bottom Line: Compelling and sad.