The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo is my most recent read. And yes, I realize that it is not non-fiction. My excuse is that it is for a book club that I am a part of, though I have never actually made it to one of the book discusions. If my husband gets home from work in time to watch the kids, I will go to discuss this book tonight.
The other reason I decided to go ahead and read the book is because it is heavy, no fluff here.
The story is of a young woman, nineteen years of age, who is a pearl diver. Even this aspect of the story I found fascinating; the author describes very well the lifestyle of a pearl diver in the days when it was still done without special equipement. Even in the 40's, which is when this book begins, pearls were harvested in much the same way they must have been for centuries. The girl learns that she has leprosy, and the rest of the book is set in a leprosorium on an island, which has no conctact with the world outside.
I enjoyed the author's writing style, and the way the book is set into sections by artifacts. The story line is laid out by each of these items, and even when years and years of time are skipped, the life of the colony is highlighted well. The horrors of the disease are illuminated with out being dwelt on; as are the deprivation, and inhumane treatments of the patients.
This book is set in Japan, but I assume the life of the leper would be the same pretty much wherever you were. The shunning, the misunderstanding of the disease, the fear. Even when scientific studies, and new medication, would have made it possible for many of the leper's to be reintroduced into society, society was not ready, and according to this book, many of the patients were not able to readjust to life in 'the world' again.
Would reccomend this book without hesitation; though because of the subject matter, and some of the gruesome details - including: abortions, and late stage abortions preformed on the unwilling; suicide; sexual references; death and disease - give it a mature rating.
Quote from the book:
Spoken by the character, Mr. Shikagawa, page 150: "Words are the most important thing we have. A few words, one word, can change history. Imagine the correct words had been spoken by those people who are in charge of our lives. A few well-thought-out words and things might have been different. Unfortunatly they have chosen all the wrong words."