Healing Water by Joyce Moyer Hostetter.
Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press: Honesdale, PA, 2008.

Healing Water is a very sad but transformative story. It is an excellent story, though I expect it will be mostly read by adults. Because of the depressing subject, I do not know how many teens will pick it up. It may appeal to teens sensitive to others' feelings or teens who have known desperation of some sort themselves. I was such a teen, but this book is so heart-wrenching. That said, there is much we could learn from it. Maybe know already, but could use a reminder.

The story starts with Pia, a young boy, being abandoned by his best friend/older brother/father figure, as he is expelled from his community in Hawaii when diagnosed with leprosy. After trying to survive on his own in the settlement on Moloka'i, Pia is sheltered by a thief, who expects Pia to be his slave. He struggles with his new life and desire to protect others' from his master. He finds new hope when Father Damien (a real person) comes to minister to the community. However, he is confronted by his past and must sort out his anger, when his friend Kamaka also voluntarily comes to live in the community with his wife.

As you would expect, water is symbolic in a couple places in the story, besides the first church in the community being called the Church of the Healing Spring. There is the storm which is a turning point in Pia's struggle with his anger regarding abandonment, and Father Damien cleanses Pia's feet and with them his spirit. Forgiveness and service to others are important factors in the story. Letting go of anger which can destroy you, even if it is justified. Important, but certainly an inner battle.

Hostetter has done a good job of creating the Hawaiian setting, through the use of language and other cultural references. I appreciate the use of historical figures and the recreating of the experience of a real community. The community comes to life, and the story seems real, not forced or fabricated. Pia seems real.

related-leprosy, disfiguring disease, conduct of life, forgiveness, service to others, abandonment, survival, community and friendship, Molokai, Hawaii, 19th century

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