Today, I’m sharing some wonderful reads: one is historical fiction and the other two are non-fiction. Each of these books deals with the same subject but from different perspectives. The subject: Leprosy/Hansen’s Disease.
Of these books, I picked up The Colony first. I was looking for more information about leprosy to add to a Sunday school lesson that I was preparing and while reading, my heart broke for those suffering from this terrible disease.
Moloka’i and In the Sanctuary of Outcasts were book club reads that I thought were well written but give a different view. Reading all three of these together would give such a depth of insight and knowledge about this terrible disease and how those who suffered from it have been treated.
This story of hope and courage follows the life and struggles of a young girl sent to the Kalaupapa colony on Moloka’i after she contracts the disease. For maximum appreciation, I think that I would start with this book before you read a non-fiction account. I found that when I read it that I kept comparing it to The Colony and wanting to correct some of the author’s liberties.
For 103 years from 1866-1969, eight thousand people were forcibly removed from their homes to a peninsula on Moloka’i. This disease does not distinguish between old and young and neither did the government. They removed the young and the old from their homes, boarded them on a boat and forced them, in their weakened state, to swim for shore. As they boarded the boats in Honolulu, the scene is described as
“a funeral in which the dead themselves walked.”
The disease was
” the sickness that is a crime…”
The book follows the lives of the people exiled to Moloka’i and how they suffered, survived and formed a community. Help comes in the form of a Roman Catholic priest, Father Damien. He, along with others, served these people and tried to bring them a semblance of normalcy, hope and purpose. Through following the progression of the residents’ illnesses and their lives, the book includes detailed facts about Hansens’s Disease and the many treatments that were used. Paul, a patient and resident, says,
“The more we suffer, the more strength we have. The more suffering, the closer we are to one another. Life is that way. If you haven’t suffered then you don’t know what joy is. The others may know something about joy, but those who have gone through hell and high water, I think they feel the joy deeper.”
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
Set in the leprosarium at Carville, LA, this true story tells of the author’s incarceration served among the patients there. Mr. White discovered himself while serving out his sentence among these patients.
“Finally in a sanctuary for outcasts, I understood the truth. Surrounded by men and women who could not hide their disfigurement, I could see my own.”
One of the patients that impacted the author in profound ways was Ella. He says of her,
“But Ella carried her leprosy like a divine blessing. She had faith that she would be healed in heaven. She embraced the life she believed God had chosen for her on earth. She has transcended the stigma that crippled so many.”
I highly recommend all three books. All three had a profound impact on my view of scripture, suffering and courageous hope.
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”
Matthew 11:5 NIV Bible