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It was known as the living grave: a remote Hawaiian peninsula called Kalaupapa, housing the largest settlement for leprosy patients in the United States. Once, it had been a forbidding place of exile, inhabited by thousands of the disease’s victims, who had been removed from their families and confined against their will, far away from a society that feared and misunderstood their condition.

When Brooke Jarvis came across a posting for a job in Kalaupapa, tending to the needs of the handful of remaining patients, it seemed like an impossibly exotic opportunity for a college student. But what she found there was both more familiar and more remarkable than what she had imagined. When We Are Called to Part is the absorbing, affecting, and often funny story of life in the last years of a rapidly vanishing community. “Even a prison,” she would learn, “eventually becomes a home, becomes something you mourn.” 

November 2013