Imagine being fourteen and diagnosed with a deadly disease. Now imagine being torn away from the loving arms of your family and sent alone to an unknown island to live with others who share your disease, where you must learn how to survive by whatever means necessary, knowing there is no hope that you will be able to leave. This is the setting of Healing Water, a young adult novel based on the real leper colony of Molokai in the late 1800s.
Filled with bitter anger over his abandonment by his beloved friend Kamaka, Pia allows himself to turn to the seamier side of the island’s inhabitants. Working for the evil Boki in order to keep a roof over his head and food in his stomach, Pia keeps mostly to himself and hates what he has become. His life takes a dramatic turn, however, when first Kamaka and then Father Damien, a Catholic priest, arrive on Molokai. Pia must either face his demons or find himself truly alone.
Healing Water is an engaging story that left me wanting to know more about Molokai and its unfortunate inhabitants. I found Pia both tragic and believable, and my heart broke for all those who found themselves ignorantly exiled there. This book made a definite impression on me, and I can highly recommend it to readers of all ages.