In the late 19th century, a seven-year-old Hawaiian girl is diagnosed with leprosy and is taken away from her family to the leper colony on the island of Moloka'i. Rachel is not allowed to live with her uncle, who was sent to Moloka'i before her, but instead is raised by nuns along with other girls taken from their families. As she grows to adulthood, Rachel witnesses many changes in the community and in the treatment of leprosy -- later known as Hansen's Disease. Many of her friends die, but Rachel survives and finds love and happiness for a time on Moloka'i, though she continues to hope that one day she will be able to return home to her family.
A fascinating and poignant account of the impact that one of the many diseases brought to Hawaii by outsiders had on the native population through the eyes of one girl. Hawaiian legends are woven throughout the story, providing insight into the rich history and culture of the islands that became the 50th state.