Thursday, September 8, 2011

Historical Fiction Fan

I guess being a Social Studies teacher explains why I have a tendency to gravitate towards historical fiction.  Since I am also a fan of a good, gory murder mystery, historical fiction that leans towards the macabre is even better.  Hence the reason why Alan Brennert’s Moloka’i was right up my alley.  I have to admit, this book came to my attention thanks to the Target weekly flyer…it was a choice for their book club, and kudos to whoever chooses their books because it did not disappoint.  This book spans 65 years as it follows Rachel Kalama, whose life on the picturesque shores of Hawaii takes a tragic turn when a sore that just wouldn’t heal leads to a leprosy diagnosis.  Thanks to the limited understanding of the disease, the seven-year-old was subsequently ripped away from her family and sent to live on the shores of Moloka’i, a leprosy colony in operation from 1866-1969.  While a tragic tale of exile and longing, I was gripped by Rachel’s story.  Brennert did a wonderful job pulling the reader not only into Rachel’s life, but also the history of Hawaii, the disease and the colony.  While there are parts that make you want to cry, the book is well worth the tears.  A little warning though…this is a serious read that left me wanting to follow it up with complete fluff.

My other recent foray into historical fiction would be The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.  This was a book club read, and I am happy to report that it was enjoyed by the entire group.  The Kitchen House introduces the reader to a slightly different view on slavery.  It is the 1790’s when Lavinia comes to Tall Oaks plantation as an indentured servant following the death of her parents.  Here is the catch, she is only about five years old and she is white.  The ship captain, needing payment for the voyage that killed her parents, brings Lavinia home and entrusts her care to his slaves, including his illegitimate daughter, Belle.  While this would be a horrible turn of events for most, Lavinia because a member of the slave family and can’t understand that she is not a “negra.”  Much like Moloka’i, this book spans a multitude of years, and ends with Lavinia in her early twenties and enduring a different form of hardship in a life that has come full circle.  All in all, I highly recommend The Kitchen House to anyone looking for a book with a little meat, but which is still an easy read.