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Cover for Holy Moli

Holy Moli

Albatross and Other Ancestors

Hob Osterlund


List Price: 18.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Hob Osterlund moved to Hawai'i after being visited in a dream by an ancestor, Martha Beckwith, author of the monumental classic, Hawaiian Mythology. It was there, on the island of Kaua'i, where she happened upon a few courting albatross and felt an inexplicable attraction to the birds—an attraction too powerful to be explained by their beguiling airbrushed eye shadows, enormous wingspans, and rollicking dances.
In Hawaiian mythology, ancestors may occupy the physical forms of animals known as 'aumakua. Laysan albatross—known as moli—are among them. Smitten with these charismatic creatures, Osterlund set out to learn everything she could about moli. She eventually came to embrace them as her 'aumakua—not as dusty old myths on a museum bookshelf, but as breathing, breeding, boisterous realities.
Albatross sport many superlative qualities. They live long—sometimes longer than sixty years—and spend the majority of their time airborne, gliding across vast oceanic expanses. They are model mates and devoted parents, and are among the only animals known to take long-term same-sex partners. In nesting season, they rack up inconceivable mileage just to find supper for chicks waiting on the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.
It is from the island of Kaua'i that Holy Moli takes flight.  Osterlund relates a true tale of courage, celebration and grief—of patience, affection and resilience. This is the story of how albatross guided the author on her own long journey, retracing distances and decades, back to the origin of a binding bargain she struck when she was ten years old, shortly after her mother’s death.
Holy Moli is a natural history of the albatross, a moving memoir of grief, and a soaring tribute to ancestors. Within its pages are lyrics of wonder—for freedom, for beauty, and for the far-flung feathered creatures known to us as albatross.

Praise For Holy Moli: Albatross and Other Ancestors

“Who knew I could fall in love with a bird called the albatross? Hob Osterlund did, thatʻs who. And in Holy Moli sheʻll make you fall in love with them—and her—too, in this moving and fascinating book about birds, loss, and finding a true home in the world.”

Cheryl Strayed, Author of #1 New York Times Bestseller Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

“Hob Osterlund is a witness to beauty. Her words ground that sacred witnessing on the page with joyous revelations, not without sorrow. The full range of emotion is hers. I look forward to her ongoing relationship of wonder with the albatross.”

Terry Tempest Williams, Author of Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

"The Gulf Coast artist, Walt Anderson, calls birds ‘holes in heaven through which a man or woman may pass.’ The New Mexican sage, Martín Prechtel, calls them ‘an almost molecular presence in our psyches and souls.’ In the spirit of these seers, an orphan named Hob set forth with indefatigable wit, curiosity, eloquence, and a camera named for her departed mom, made a dual home for herself both on the north shore of Kauai and smack dab in the heart of Jesus’ adage Consider the fowls of the air, and the very skies have been served by the interspecies communion that has resulted. Holy Moli is a healing; a hoot; a transmission of gravity-defying wonder.”

David James Duncan, Author of The River Why andThe Brothers K

"I love Hob’s writing. Her stories are delightful, entertaining and intimate. Because of her rare ability to take us inside the lives of these amazing birds, the albatross may fly onto center stage among charismatic animals, just as penguins did a few years ago.”

Stacey O’Brien, Author of New York Times bestseller Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl

Holy Moli is a remarkable story of observation and healing, of loss and adaptation, of curiosity and wisdom. From the early death of her mother to her present-day role as citizen scientist, Hob Osterlund takes us on fascinating journeys into her family’s past and the daily life of albatross colonies on Kauai. Her affection for these extraordinary birds makes this book a winner. I loved every page.”

Hope Edelman, Author ofMotherless Daughters

“I read Holy Moli with mounting amazement. It’s wonderfully informative; Hob Osterlund also knows the albatross in the deepest sense, beyond science. It’s written with wit and humor and passion and love and pain. It’s lively and vibrant and vigorous. It’s imaginative and speculative and shimmering with implication and intimation. You cannot help but turn the page, which is a delicious thing to say of any book. It’s about a riveting creature unlike any other in the world and perhaps the universe. It’s about reverence and respect and resurrection. Quietly and shyly it’s also about the author, which is how books in which the author appears ought to be and hardly ever are. It’s a remarkable book that I still think about a lot long after I finished reading it, which seems to me the sign of a Very Fine Book Indeed. I hang that sign on this book with confidence and something very much like awe.”

Brian Doyle, Author of The Plover and Mink River

Holy Moli is a labor of love. The love of magic. The magic of hope. And that’s just the book. Just wait till you meet the birds and the people whose faith tends them. A million years in the making, this is a story of a rekindling of Life’s most blessedly fierce and fiercely sacred flame: return. Renewal. No better tale exists. Lesser tales need not apply.”

Carl Safina, Author of Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival and Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

“Hob is one helluva writer and Holy Moli is holy-crap good. Lyrical, uplifting, heart-breaking, sweet and a whole lot else.”

Scott Weidensaul, Pulitzer Prize finalist for Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere With Migratory Birds

Oregon State University Press, 9780870718489, 208pp.

Publication Date: May 5, 2016

About the Author

Hob Osterlund is an award-winning writer and photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Explorer, The New York Times, Nature, and more. In her previous career, she served as an advanced practice nurse in a large medical center; now she devotes her time to her lifelong passion for wildlife. As Founder of the Kaua?i Albatross Network, she serves as Habitat Liaison for private property owners who host Laysan albatross, an iconic species that’s begun to repopulate its ancient home in the Hawaiian Islands. She lives on Kaua?i with her partner.