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review 2016-09-26 23:07
Moloka'i -
Moloka'i - Alan Brennert

This was a book we picked for book club. It has been suggested we read and discuss it for more than a year, and we've finally gotten around to it.


I'm not a big reader of Historical Fiction, let alone a reader of Historical Fiction that doesn't revolve around a war. This might even be my first adult experience. (Yes, I've read Little House on the Prairie, don't even front.)


I liked this book. It wasn't life changing for me, but I'm semi-glad I read it. Leprosy is not a subject that I've read a lot about. The Hawaiian culture, pre-US, is not a culture I've read a lot about either. This was a nice pick to diversify our reading choices.


The story follows Rachel's life. Her whole life, from the time she's a wee one to after her death. There's a lot of historical landmarks that take place in this time period: moving pictures, appliances, WWII, air planes, etc.


There were hints of emotion when it came to Rachel, but it was discussed in book club, that Rachel is more like our camera. We're getting the whole picture from her. It was decided among a couple people that the story would have been more interesting and well-rounded if there were multiple narrators and if the time jumped a bit. (This brought on the discussion of how multiple narrators weren't really a "thing" in the 2000s, but it's all the rage in the 2010s.)


It's well-written. I appreciate the amount of research the author seemingly put into this book. That being said, we also talked about the author being a white male writing about a Hawaiian female with Leprosy and the effectiveness on this.


I do recommend if you like books about people. Just a warning: the copy I had had small margins and little print, so it went a little slower than I wanted. However, I was able to finish this book in under two weeks. (I didn't read it every day.)


This book is great for a book discussion book: There are questions in the back of the book to spark conversation. There's also a ton to talk about without being prompted. Lots of themes, characters, and viewpoints that could ignite interesting banter.

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review 2016-07-18 18:32
Moloka'i / Alan Brennert
Moloka'i - Alan Brennert

This richly imagined novel, set in Hawaii more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place - and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning. With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death.


This novel had a great plot line, which suffered I think from the author’s rigid adherence to historical fact. I think he would be much better at writing text books than fiction, which is not the insult that it sounds, as both are separate skills and both necessary in our world. But this could have been such a good story and it missed its mark for me by such a huge margin.

It’s such a wonderful setting—the lushness and harshness both of Hawaii. The situation of a remote island leper colony offers so much opportunity, much of which the author made use of, but mechanically rather than artistically. The story just seemed to plod from plot point to plot point, methodically telling the tale without really inspiring too much emotion from me. Perhaps I’m just hard-hearted, but all of the piling on of miseries just overwhelmed me. How much more could be thrown at a character? And although we are told that they are suffering, it was more telling than showing. It was more like reading a non-fiction account than like reading a novel.

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text 2016-06-08 19:25
Reading progress update: I've read 111 out of 432 pages.
Palisades Park - Alan Brennert


I absolutely love learning about old amusement parks, abandon malls and entertainment of the past. I can't imagine a park built in 1899. Or riding a coaster built in the 1920s.


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text 2015-12-30 18:41
Palisades Park - Alan Brennert

UPDATE: The original review says I bought this for $6. That is an error. The price in this post is correct. 


Sorry about the double posts today. I thought I scheduled The Fold post for yesterday, but that obviously went wrong. Oh well. Life goes on.


I do a lot of bargain-bin and thrift-store shopping. When I come across a good book that I spent very little on it just makes that book seem that much better. While Palisades Park wasn't one of my quarter finds, a brand new hardcover of this book was only $3 marked down from $5.95 which was even further marked down from the original price of $25.99. I don't math good, but that's one helluva discount for a book I would have gladly paid $26 for, had I known how good it was.


Because I found this one for such a low price, I went out and purchased both of the author's previous books for full price. 


Original review.

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review 2015-12-10 00:00
Time and Chance
Time and Chance - Alan Brennert The first thing I ever read by Alan Brennert was "The Third Sex", from The Best of Pulphouse. It was about just that, a person who was neither male nor female. It was a story about love, identity, and relationships, and it lingered with me long after I finished the story. I had actually been exposed to Brennert before then through Weird Romance, which featured another of his stories, but this was the first fiction of his I read, and from that moment forward, I knew he was a writer to read.

Fast forward a few years, when I chance upon a historical novel he wrote about a leper colony on Hawaii called Moloka'i. I took a chance on it, since I knew Brennert could evoke complex emotion in a short story, even though it didn't sound like my kind of story. It's still one of only two books that made me cry (the other being The Book Thief), and if I hadn't already made a mental note to read everything this author writes, Moloka'i would have done it.

Time and Chance is an earlier novel of Brennert's, though it still has that emotional resonance I've associated with his previous works. It's about a man named Richard Cochrane who, thirteen years ago, made a decision to give up the woman he loved in order to go to New York to become an actor. It's also about a man named Richard Cochrane who, thirteen years ago, made a decision to give up on his dreams to become an actor in order to stay with the woman he loved to raise a family. Neither Richard is entirely happy with his decision and the life he's led since then, but time and chance have somehow conspired to allow them to swap places. The story is how they adapt to their new, alternate lives.

What I really liked about this novel is how Brennert took one character and made two characters out of him. Each have the same backstory, the same histories. Their divergence allowed him to examine their lives in different ways, and see how it affected them in their later years. He doesn't make it easy for either Richard to step into the other's life, which is as it should be. Thirteen years after making a difficult decision affects one's personality. The bitter, angry man who resents having given up a chance to become an actor isn't the same person as the melancholy, morose man who regrets having given up a chance at a family. Each character has a challenge stepping into the other's shoes, but Brennert does make it easier for one than the other.

Brennert's talent is in his people, and their relationships. I've noticed also that in many of his stories -- "The Third Sex", Her Pilgrim Soul (as much as I know about it from Weird Romance, at least), and Time and Chance, at least -- he features a troubled relationship, and the ways that those relationships can mend. They're very hopeful affairs, which is a nice antidote to the other kinds of fiction I often read.

Alan Brennert is a treat, and a gem. I haven't read anything of his that I wouldn't recommend without hesitation.
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