“Kristal said: 4 stars
In 1866, Hawaii was trying to save it's reputation as a beautiful, tropical place to visit and tried to hide the fact that it had a large number of citizens who had leprosy. So in an effort to keep the streets clean, it passed a law where anyone found with the disease would be sent to the island of Molokai, an "almost island" that boasted one small claim, it had the tallest sea cliff in the world. The "patients" were virtually prisoners on the island. There were no landing sites along the island and vessels bringing in new patients sometimes simply threw there charges overboard with the choice to sink or swim.
Exile on Molokai continued for more than a century, the longest and deadliest instance of medical segregation in American history. Since little was know about the disease, many patients were misdiagnosed and sent to the island by mistake with no hope of their case to ever been reviewed again. In all, more than 8 thousand people were banished to the settlement.
There were many heroes that resulted from the catastrophe. Some even sacrificed there own health of help those on the island. And when research finally revealed a cure for leprosy, some of the island inhabitants had lived on the island for so long that they refused to leave because they knew nothing else. They had been small children when they came and were now in the senior years with only the education and experience they had learned on the island. The officials would uproot them from the only home they knew.
This is a very moving and heart-wrenching story showing the prejudices that exist when people don't understand something and the people who go above and beyond to try and help those who are in need.
Isabelle S said: 3.5 stars, round to 3
The Colony attempts to tell the story of the leper settlement at Molokai from the struggles of the very first patients not to go there, to the struggles of the final patients not to leave. Tayman uses patient and physician journals, Board of Health edicts, letters and newspaper accounts to construct the history.
The chapters on the initial set up of the colony are heartbreaking, but then the narrative settles into a repetitive rhythm as the numbers grow but not much changes except the names (dozens and dozens of names) of administrators, politicians and patients. Tayman states in his intro that he worked from over 8000 pages of primary source material, and sometimes it seems as though he's determined to use all of it whether it makes sense as a narrative or not. I was listening on audio, so I'm not sure how much of the confusing syntax is Tayman's own or from the originals, but it's a frequent occurrence. (For example, you read that eight patients were treated and all four died, and you're left not really sure what just happened.)
As the story approaches modern times, Tayman focuses on a handful of Kalaupapa residents, providing so much detail and personal information that I wasn't really surprised to learn that most ceased cooperation with the author before the book was published. At least one couple hired a lawyer to try and get their info removed before publication. They charge that Tayman embellished and exaggerated their histories to fit his narrative.
The Colony is not sold in the bookstore on Molokai, in accordance with the wishes of the residents. The most obvious point of contention is the cover, which depicts section of the Amalfi Coast in Italy. A NY Times article about the controversy over the book quotes Hansen's Disease patient advocate Anwei Law: "He's missed the point," she said. "The cliffs of Molokai are very important to the people there. When things were bad, they would look at those cliffs and get strength from them. When you've changed that, you've missed something very significant. It's like, 'Oh, well, any cliffs will work.' " (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/27/books/27wils.html?pagewanted=all)
Four stars for the first third of the book, then Tayman seems determined to make you feel the tedium of being stuck in the settlement, so 3 overall.”