Synopses & Reviews
In the bestselling tradition of In the Heart of the Sea, The Colony reveals the untold history of the infamous American leprosy colony on Molokai and of the extraordinary people who struggled to survive under the most horrific circumstances.
In 1866, twelve men and women and one small child were forced aboard a leaky schooner and cast away to a natural prison on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Two weeks later, a dozen others were exiled, and then forty more, and then a hundred more. Tracked by bounty hunters and torn screaming from their families, the luckless were loaded into shipboard cattle stalls and abandoned in a lawless place where brutality held sway. Many did not have leprosy, and most of those who did were not contagious, yet all were caught in a shared nightmare. The colony had little food, little medicine, and very little hope. Exile continued for more than a century, the longest and deadliest instance of medical segregation in American history. Nearly nine thousand people were banished to the colony, trapped by pounding surf and armed guards and the highest sea cliffs in the world. Twenty-eight live there still.
John Tayman tells the fantastic saga of this horrible and hopeful place -- at one time the most famous community in the world -- and of the individuals involved. From the very first exile -- a gentle part-time lawyer trapped in an unjust ordeal beyond his imagination -- to the last remaining residents, the narrative is peopled by presidents and kings, cruel lawmen and pioneering doctors, and brave souls who literally gave their lives to help. A stunning cast includes the martyred Father Damien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, John Wayne, and more. The result is a searing tale of survival and bravery, and a testament to the power of faith, compassion, and heroism.
"From 1866 through 1969, the Hawaiian and American governments banished nearly 9,000 leprosy sufferers into exile on a peninsula on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Former Outside editor Tayman crafts a tale of fear, endurance and hope in telling the story of these unfortunate victims of ignorance (leprosy is caused by a simple bacteria and isn't nearly as contagious as was long believed). After a smallpox epidemic wiped out a fifth of the Hawaiian population in the 1850s, leprosy was seen as the next cataclysmic threat, and drastic measures were taken. For more than 100 years, anyone diagnosed with the disease was taken to the remote colony. Initially, conditions were horrible, with few services or proper medical treatment. Pushed to their limit and fueled with potent moonshine, the internees frequently rioted, causing overseers to enforce cruel laws. Later, as science and social thinking evolved, conditions improved and many in the settlement lived lives of near normalcy. Drawing on contemporary sources and eyewitness accounts of the still surviving members of the colony, Tayman has created a fitting monument to the strength and character of the castoffs in particular, and human beings as a whole. B&w photos. Agent, David McCormick. (Jan. 3) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] gripping history....Tayman's crisp, flowing writing and inclusion of personal stories and details make this an utterly engrossing look at a heartbreaking chapter in Hawaiian history." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[Tayman] hauntingly depicts the devastation of an ill-understood disease and helps demystify its victims....Rigorous, tenacious research uncovers a grim story of human suffering." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] tragic and heart-stopping tale filled with vivid descriptions of important policymakers, governmental officials, and writers such as Jack London who oversaw or visited the banished people." Library Journal
"This is a fascinating book, about disease and the startling responses to it, ranging from terror to love...a book full of heroes and some villains. I was greatly enlightened by it." Paul Theroux
"A fascinating piece of history, very nicely told." Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains
In the bestselling tradition of "In the Heart of the Sea" comes the untold history of America's only leper colony--which exists even today--and the extraordinary people forced to create a community under horrific circumstances. 30 photos.