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Editorial Reviews

The Colony is a must-listen in all respects. John Tayman tells a riveting account of the life and history of the leper colony at Molokai. It is filled with shocking history, unforgettable heroes, celebrity cameos, political intrigue, and medical mysteries all woven into a story that is both exhilarating and dismal.

Tayman charts not only the life of the colony, but the lives of a veritable cast of characters, both patients and non-patients: there are heroes here in Father Damien and John Early. Tayman also follows the main island and mainland politics that birthed and crippled the colony. And he tracks the progression of leprosy and the science of leprosy, from the Biblical mistranslation that stigmatized it to the microscopes that magnified the germs, and the cure.

Along the way, Tayman introduces us to famous writers who visited Molokai: Mark Twain, Jack London, and Robert Louis Stevenson. These and other first-hand insights make Tayman's account convincing and accurate.

Patrick Lawlor reads well, perfectly matching Tayman's pacing, bringing the despair and the heroism of this account fully to life.

This is a dirty history of our country, of medicine, and of government. But in the end, it was a lesson well learned, one that has helped to avoid the same mistakes with other contagious diseases such as AIDS. Everyone should listen to this book for the very reason this type of history is taught: so that it does not repeat itself.

Publisher's Summary

In the best-selling 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, 12 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 40 more, and then 100 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 9,000 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. 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.

©2006 John Tayman (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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) "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." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall


I liked this book quite a bit. Perhaps my positive assessment is bolstered by the fact that I "read" it while on my way to the island of Molokai. Having heard the story prior to gazing down upon that remote peninsula from 2,000 feet above is quite an experience. I also have a positive opinion of the reader, but he admittedly may be an acquired taste. Still, the book is shocking and engaging. The reader is left in the position of learning about the disease along with the real-life characters. It felt very real. I highly recommend the book.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Bad history lesson

I love a good historical novel, but this book is like the worst, most boring history lesson you ever had to endure. It throws dates, names, and events at you in a rushed, often disorganized manner, and devotes little to the character of the people it tells of. If you like to read facts and dates, you will probably like this one. But, if you want to feel history come alive, pass this one up.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Donald
  • Richmond, CA, USA
  • 01-04-10

Wonderful book, well read.

I listened to this audiobook after first having read "Holy Man Father Damien of Molokai" by Gavan Daws. Both books are well written and, in the case of "The Colony" is certainly well read by Patrick Lawlor. I have to disagree with earlier reviewers who complained about the quality of Lawlor's narration. I found his reading well paced as well as well modulated, certainly in keeping with the text as it developed. The main focus of the first book, of course, is the work of the Catholic priest (now Saint) Damien De Veusters and his work among lepers in the community of Kalawao which served as the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Both books deal with the politics of the Kingdon of Hawaii, especially with the Board of Health as well as with the religious politics affecting the colony on Molokai. The "Colony" initially covers much of the same material, but continues to follow specific cases of Hawaiians as well as non Hawaiians sent to the colony on Molokai up to and through the formal cessation of segregation in 1969 and beyond into the early part of our 21st Century. Taymon describes in telling detail the lives of several key individuals throughout this entire period. I found listening to "The Colony" very rewarding and worthwhile.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Katelyn
  • el mirage, AZ, USA
  • 05-16-09

Eye opening

As much as I'd love to go sit in the sand on the beaches in Hawaii, after reading this book, I don't think I'll be doing it any time soon. I can't believe the atrocities humans can commit against those less fortunate, especially within our own country within most of our life times. This book is very straight forward and there is no sugar coating, I recommend it to anyone who wants to know the truth about the lepers of Hawaii and what the government did to them.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Janet
  • PLANO, TX, United States
  • 10-22-06


This book was very factual, and very depressing. It was somewhat disjointed in its storytelling, and gave no positive attributes of the story surrounding the colony on Molokai. I had a difficult time listening to it at all.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • sauer
  • San Diego, CA (USA)
  • 04-10-09

good book, bad reader

This is a very interesting book, about a fascinating aspect of history. Having read James Michener's "Hawaii," I was familiar with the story of Molokaii. I feel grateful to the author for making Father Damien's story more known. The main drawback of this audiobook, was the incredibly annoying narration. Every character, whether German, French, Dutch, Hawaiian had the same nasal, inconsistent "Pepe Le Pew" accent- SO irritating! If a narrator can't do good accents, he should just leave well enough alone and read it straight.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ellen
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 03-02-09

Father Damien is My New Life Inspiration

I was so inspired to read about Father Damien. His story alone is worth listening to this book. And then there was Mr. Dutton. I am not kidding--these two along with the others like them really renewed my faith. I didn't get this book in order to read about religion but I googled Father Damien and found out he is to be canonized later this year. The only bad thing about this book is the narrator...sorry...this narrator does not have good intonation, phrasing, or whatever. I have to hand it to the narrator for pronouncing all those Hawaiian names though. Another good thing about the book is the sweep through history, finally arriving in the age where germs and antibiotics are understood. There were some heart-breaking stories in the book but the main thing I got from it is why don't I do something, any little thing, Father-Damien-Like in my own life. Even once.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sherry
  • Londonderry, NH, United States
  • 05-05-06

Hard to get past the narration

Unfortunately, the the narrator reads every direct quote in some goofy accent. I found this extremely distracting. All the way through I just kept wishing he'd cut it out.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ellenaeddy
  • Chesterton, IN, United States
  • 08-27-13

Hawaii's Darker Side

It's one thing to have an island paradise. It's another thing to see how it's darker edges are turned under.
Hawaii itself is a story about imperialism and religious bullying. It's interesting and terribly sad for many reasons.This is perhaps it's saddest story, well told.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Interesting historical information

This was a very informative and well presented book. There were many things I did not know about Molokai and the exiles there and found it fascinating how things really transpired.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful