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Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai [Paperback]

by Gavan Daws
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews


"Beautifully written, deeply perceptive." -- Los Angeles Times

From The Washington Post

"An absolutely fascinating book."

Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press; Reprint edition (February 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824809203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824809201
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
"Holy Man" is undoubtedly the finest and most scholarly work to date on this topic. Prior to Daws' work, the overwhelming majority of books on this topic have been somewhat biased as they were produced by Catholic clergy and lay writers. Daws has brought the secular historian's skill to this subject and has produced a truly balanced account of the life and work of Father Joseph DeVeuster. Only a visit to the Molokai, Hawaii, settlements of Kalawao and Kalaupapa will provide the reader with a more detailed account of Father Damian's life and work among the lepers of Molokai. Father Daimian was beautified in 1993. A church inquiry is underway to determine whether or not this "Holy Man" should be made a Catholic saint. "Holy Man" is required reading for anyone even marginally interested in Hawaiian history. In the short period of time this work has been in print, it has become required reading for all students of Hawaiian History, American approaches to chronic and incurable disease and Catholic doctrine pertaining to leprosy and lepers. Daws has written a masterful account of the life and works of this important nineteenth century Catholic clergyman. "Holy Man" is the definitive work on Father Damian and is likely to remain so well into the next century. Father Damian was buried on the island of Molokai until earlier this century when his remains were exhumed and re-interred in his home of Louvain, Belgium. Today, only his hand remains buried on the island of Molokai. The hand is widely regarded as a religious relic.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on Fr Damien June 24, 2005
I visited the leper colony on the island of Molokai, the villages of Kalawao and Kalaupapa last March and this book was recommended to me. I picked it up from a gift shop there as I went round visiting the sites of Fr Damien's enormous and extensive ministry. I also heard from the tour guides, stories of the zeal and dedication with which he ministered to the ill-fated leprosy patients. I also knew about him from other sources.

The book is a wonderful read. It brings to the light of the world a rather obscure life of a Catholic priest who belonged to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts Fathers and worked in the mission of Hawaii. His devotion and dedication to the ministry in favor of the lepers and his eventual martyrdom as a leper seemed to have moved this non-Catholic writer to go into detailed research and strenuous investigation to bring out such a classic work on the subject. Gavan Daws does not idealize Fr Damien's life or make him a superman. According to him Fr Damien was an ordinary man, a priest with his own frailties and flaws, at the same time a hero and a martyr worthy to be called `holy.' The book in fact, is more than a mere biography of the leper priest. A lot of research and study has gone into the writing of this book which is a story of leprosy in the Hawaiian islands, a history of the Church in the second half of the nineteenth century, besides being the life of a saint-to-be. I hope that the book will inspire ordinary people to make deep personal commitments and fulfill them with extraordinary devotion and fervor.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational January 12, 2008
By Anna
When people analyze the life of a soon-to-be saint, such as Damien, it's not uncommon for them to gloss over any imperfections. This book, thankfully, doesn't do that. What it does do is show you a very human man, not an intellectual, not the star of his religious community or even his family, but a very devoted man who made an incredible difference in the lives of so many who others wouldn't even touch. Read it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book!! Great history, very inspiring! October 28, 1997
Gavan Daws does an excellent job writing an unbiased account of the life of Father Damien. The author shows great respect for all the characters that appear in this story. The history surrounding Damien's life is accurate and enjoyable. The book is very inspiring and eye-opening. A must-read if you are interested on the Hawaiian Islands.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Apostle of the Lepers October 19, 2007
By AvgMom2
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book for anyone who is curious about Father Damien of Molokai. It is comprehensive, non-religious, well written, and well structured. Gavan Daws did a great job describing Father Damien, his negative as well his positive attributes. It includes the actual photos of key players and drawings of the Kalawao settlement, the quarantined area of the island. Readers can glimpse into the lives of those people afflicted with the leprosy and, of course, Father Damien, who was the first priest to volunteer to go to the settlement. Even when he caught the dreaded disease himself some 11 years later, he never slowed down his activities. He wanted to make sure that the programs that he started will continue long after he was gone. He died of leprosy on Monday, April 15, 1889. He was 49 years old.

2/22/09 - I just saw on MSNBC that Father Damien will be declared a saint on 10/11/09 at a Vatican ceremony! I can almost hear Father Damien chuckling in Heaven!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai August 12, 2005
Very interesting, and informative on the times that the event was occuring in the Hawaiian islands. The story kept focused, and was very easy to read and keep up with.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars holy man April 5, 2010
excellent book on father damien. I would like to visit the shrine. The book was written very well. truly he was a HOLY MAN
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars everyone should read
This touched my heart and also made me laugh. This story about one single man doing God's work and how he worked up wrath within his superiors in the Catholic Church yet was loved... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Robbi Teague
5.0 out of 5 stars Father Damien
This was an excellent book. It made the story of this man's life come alive with facts
I did not know before. It was a book you couldn't put down. Read more
Published 1 month ago by midyorkfran
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent history of Father Damien and the Kaluapapa area
Very well written account by an insider who knew Father Damien. This biography is widely recognized as the best resource on this subject.
Published 4 months ago by Lou Barbaccia
5.0 out of 5 stars When God Calls a Soul to a Leper Colony!
This is one book for which I just needed to wait for the right time. One concern I had was that I'd be repulsed by a story all about leprosy. Read more
Published on April 6, 2012 by Librarian
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book!
This is an informative book about Damien and his life. It quickly skips past his childhood and jumps right into the "meat" of Damien's story, which really starts with his deciding... Read more
Published on December 25, 2010 by LK
5.0 out of 5 stars We need more saints like Damien
I found this to be a well researched and very interesting , scholarly book and could not put it down! Read more
Published on July 31, 2010 by Holly Hale
5.0 out of 5 stars Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai
I wanted to read more about Father Damien before he is canonized a saint in October 2009. Gavan Daws has done much research before writing this biography of Damien DeVeuster. Read more
Published on September 12, 2009 by Kailua Gram
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