Character Connection: Rachel Kalama

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Character Connection

Don’t you just love larger-than-life characters? The ones who jump off the page and grab you? Whether you love them or hate them, you can’t be indifferent to them.

I would love to know about the characters who just won’t leave you! Most of you will probably post about how much you love (or loathe) each character, but this is a great place for the more creative ones among you to let go and have fun! Write yourself into a scene with Anne and Diana. Write a love poem in elvish for Aragorn. Draw a picture of Harry obliterating Voldemort. The possibilities are endless.

Be sure to post the book’s title and author, and be very careful not to give away spoilers while talking about how much you love your characters.

Mr. Linky will be posted here on The Introverted Reader every Thursday.

Rachel Kalama, the main character in Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, is a fighter and an optimist. In 1892, at the age of seven, she is diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease, commonly known as leprosy. Hawaiians, having been such an isolated population for so long, were particularly susceptible to this disfiguring disease. To control the spread, the Board of Health established a leper’s colony on the island of Moloka’i. Everyone who was diagnosed with the disease was ripped away from their family, friends, and communities and shipped off to live out whatever time remained to them on Moloka’i.

So off Rachel goes.

Of course she’s angry and confused and hurt and feels abandoned. She’s seven. She doesn’t really understand what’s happening to her. Heck, the older people who are sent over there feel the same way and they sort of do understand.

But she’s also young, adaptable, and an eternal optimist. And that’s the Rachel that I adored.


Even as a smaller child, waiting for her beloved sailor father to come home, Rachel fantasized about the wider world and what it must be like. She couldn’t wait to get old enough to get out there and see it all for herself. Until then, she contented herself with collecting the exotic dolls that her father inevitably remembered to bring home from every trip. She had dolls from Japan, Russia, Peru, San Francisco, and I’m sure other places.

This is the spirit who finds herself confined to a few square miles because of a disease.

She holds out hope for a cure though. She is fortunate in that she has just enough resistance to the disease to slow its progress through her body. As her friends are disfigured and die from complications, Rachel actually blossoms into a beautiful young woman, still dreaming of the wider world. Whenever a doctor has a new idea for something that might cure, or at least slow, the leprosy, Rachel is the first to sign up. Mostly for selfish reasons, but also because she doesn’t want other children to go through the wrenching separation from family that she endured.

Even confined to her small little settlement, Rachel seizes life and wrings everything she can out of it. She makes lasting friendships, surfs, swims, reads, befriends newcomers, and enjoys beauty wherever she can find it. Talk about blooming where you’re planted.

I won’t say more because I’ll start getting into spoilers. But Rachel Kalama is a remarkable female character and I felt bereft when I finished her story and realized I wouldn’t be spending any more time with her.

Who did you connect with this week? Link your post on Mr. Linky, then be sure to go check out the other Character Connections!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore, and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. Rachel Kalama is seriously one of my favorite heroines! I loved her optimism and how very human her character was!

  2. If you like Molokai, you should read The Colony. We read Molokai for my book club. I was on the road at the time and could only manage (because of time) to read audiobooks. There wasn't an unabridged audiobook of Molokai, so I listened to The Colony, which is a nonfiction book about the island. It was fascinating to be able to tell my fellow book clubbers which characters were real and which parts of the book were legit. It was a great book! I do need to get around to reading Molokai though, one of these days.

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