Lois-Ann Yamanaka Behold the Many Reviews

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“Behold the Many ”


written by Harriet Klausner on 23/12/2005

Behold the Many
Lois-Ann Yamanaka
FSG, Feb 2006, $24.00, 304 pp.
ISBN: 0374110158

In 1939 Anah's daughter Hosana dies; though she mourns her loss, Anah prays that the death will lift the curse.

In 1913 Hawaii, young Leah comes down with Tuberculosis; her mother tries to hide the illness, but is caught. The child is sent to a remote orphanage in the Kalihi Valley in the Ko'olau Mountains. One year later her sister Aki joins her, and not long afterward another sibling, Anah, is sent there.

In 1916 Leah dies and subsequently so does Aki. Anah vows to stay there forever, and the ghosts of the children who have died there, including her two sisters, communicate with her. In 1924, Anah marries Ezroh with plans to finally leave the orphanage. However, the ghosts are angry and jealous that she is able to go anywhere while they cannot. They try to stop her marriage, but fail; however she and her family are cursed by one of the spirits. Over the years Anah has several children, but never overcame the guilt of surviving, nor of leaving.

In some ways BEHOLD THE MANY is a deep historical tale with plenty of insight into Hawaii and how tuberculosis victims were treated. However, it is the relationship when they lived and after they died, between the surviving sister and her two deceased siblings, that make for an eerie ghost story. Anah's beliefs that she communicates with all the dead children at the isolated clinic seems very real, though some skeptics will say she compensated for her losses. Though time moves too fast, making it somewhat difficult to follow, fans will relish this strong ghost story.

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