LOKAI by O.A. Bushnell


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This is a capacious, towering novel of the fortress island of the living dead, Molokai. While enclosed within its theme- leprosy, the white man's legacy to an untouched civilization, and dominated by the figure of Father Damien, it is not wholly limited by either. And although this disease, with its grim stigmata, may entail an initial reader reluctance, it is treated here with sympathy and hope as well as graphic detail. Bushnell -- The Return of Lono (Little, Brown- A.M.P. 1956) is not only a Hawaiian but also, interestingly enough, a practising microbiologist. His tri-partite story has three narrators: Newman, the German disciple of Koch, who is experimenting with the disease in his own self-interest and who is given the custody of a native, a condemned criminal- Keanu, in whom he hopes to develop the disease through the grafting of a transplant; Malie, a lovely young girl, formerly maid in waiting to the Queen, who falls in love with Keanu; and Caleb Forrest, a lawyer, filled with self-hatred after he- along with Malie- must learn the leper's ""lesson of his long dying"". All are not only to be subdued by their exposure to the disease, but redeemed by Father Damien, the man of practical action and firm faith who becomes ""one of them""... Bushnell is an external writer who relies on energy and emphasis to sustain his elegiac, monolithic story through a proliferation of scenes, events and words. He is not a writer of style or sensitivity and he develops incidents at the expense of character. But his long book, and in some ways strong book, never loses control of its material or command of the general reader who may well respond to its dramatic sweep and inspirational surge. It will have every kind of publisher support to bring it within his reach.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1963
Publisher: World