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Caleb's Crossing

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A richly imagined new novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller, People of the Book.

Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.

The narrator of Caleb's Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb's crossing of cultures.

Like Brooks's beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart. Evocative and utterly absorbing, Caleb's Crossing further establishes Brooks's place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

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306 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2011

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About the author

Geraldine Brooks

62 books7,137 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues.

In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. Her first novel, Year of Wonders, is an international bestseller, and People of the Book is a New York Times bestseller translated into 20 languages. She is also the author of the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence.

Brooks married author Tony Horwitz in Tourette-sur-Loup, France, in 1984. They have two sons– Nathaniel and Bizuayehu–and two dogs. They divide their time between homes in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Sydney, Australia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,732 reviews
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,909 followers
May 15, 2011
BETHIA'S CROSSING would be a title more indicative of the book's contents. Caleb is mostly a peripheral character.
Feisty Puritan girl finds devious ways of gaining the knowledge she craves but is denied simply because she is a female. First I ever heard of someone getting a college education via eavesdropping.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,169 reviews1,643 followers
March 27, 2015
What becomes of those who independently and courageously navigate the intellectual and cultural shoals that divide cultures? Is it truly possible to make those crossings without relinquishing one’s very identity?

Geraldine Brooks poignantly explores these questions in her latest novel, Caleb’s Crossing. The story is based on sketchy knowledge of the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk – the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College -- and a member of the Wampanoag tribe in what is now Martha’s Vineyard.

This is truly a work of imagination since the sources on Caleb’s brief, tragic, and remarkable life are scant. The voice belongs to the fictional Bethia Mayfield, a minister’s quick-minded daughter who gently (and sometimes, not so gently) defies the rigid expectations of a Calvinistic society that demand silence and obedience from its womenfolk.

As outsiders, both Bethia and Caleb – who meet on the cusp of adolescence – quickly bond and form a lifelong friendship. On the sly, Bethia absorbs the language and the cultures of the Wopanaak tribe while out in the field; at home, she secretly absorbs lessons that are meant for her brother Makepeace.

Eventually, both serendipitously find themselves at Cambridge. Caleb’s Harvard education – conducted in the classical languages of Latin, Greek and Hebrew – is funded by rich English patrons as an experiment as to whether “salvages” can be indoctrinated into Christian culture alongside the dismissive colonial elite. Bethia goes along with Caleb and Makepeace as indentured help, striving to remain in close proximity to scholars and avoid her fate as yet another small settlement farm wife.

There are plenty of twists and turns, trauma and heartbreak, celebrations and sadness along the way; after all, Geraldine Brooks already has a reputation as an absorbing story teller who is able to imaginatively use history to fictional ends. And it would be unfair to even allude to some of these page-turning plot developments.

The themes, though, are fair game. This novel particularly shines when it touches upon matters of faith, which rely heavily upon John Cotton, Jr.’s account of his conversations with native islanders in the 1660s missionary journals (according to the author in her epilogue). The pantheistic view of the medicine men is placed in a high-stakes battle against strict and judgmental Calvinism time and again. Bethia muses, “It galls me, when I catch a stray remark from the master, or between the older English pupils, to the effect that the Indians are uncommonly fortunate to be here. I have come to think it is a fault in us, to credit what we give in such a case, and never to consider what must be given up in order to receive it.”

Ms. Brooks drums that point home – sometimes a bit too firmly, not relying enough on the reader to form his or her own conclusions. Still, there is intense observation in the “civilizing” of Caleb’s crossing to the world inhabited uneasily by Bethia. She reflects, “In that shimmering, golden light I saw the wild boy I had met here four summers past, no longer wild, nor boy. The hair was cut short and plain, the fringed deer hide leggings replaced with sensible black serge. The wampum ornaments were gone, the bare mahogany arms sheathed now in billowing linen. Yet neither was the youth who stood before me some replica of a young Englishman…” The story of Caleb and Bethia is part of an age-old battle of repressive and misguided individuals who callously use religion to assert dominancy, superiority, and control over others.

As a result, destiny and preordination wrestle as the boundaries of both cultures are movingly explored in a voice that may be described as “period language.” From the natural beauty of an early Martha’s Vineyard to the drafty dormitories of Harvard College, this fictional work includes a wallop of historical fact. Those who have thrilled to other Geraldine Brooks’ absorbingly told novels – March, Year of Wonders, People of the Book—will find yet one more reason to rejoice.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,435 reviews813 followers
January 31, 2020
3.5★

“. . . they were clad in Adam’s livery, save that their fig leaf was a scrap of hide slung from a tie at their waists.
. . .
But it was his light temper and his easy laugh that drew me close to him, over time, until I forgot he was a half-naked, sassafras-scented heathen anointed with raccoon grease. He was, quite simply, my dearest friend.”


Bethia makes friends with a ’salvage’ (yes, with an L), as they are called throughout the book, and names him “Caleb”, while he calls her “Storm Eyes”. Geraldine Brooks is one of the best when it comes to plucking her stories straight out of the past. You could be forgiven for thinking you are reading a diary or true account of an English-American woman of the 1600s. Bethia loves the island, which is something she finds she has in common with this native whose home her people have taken over.

“We are taught early here to see Nature as a foe to be subdued. But I came, by stages, to worship it. You could say that for me, this island and her bounties became the first of my false gods, the original sin that begot so much idolatry.”

My usual complaint about Brooks’s otherwise wonderful historical fiction stands – there is no glossary and no way to look up the actual meaning of some words. I feel pretty certain that Brooks herself knows exactly what she means, and it’s an unnecessary nuisance for readers to have to guess or stop reading and start researching.

The words aren’t usually critical to the story, but some are used so often ’bever’, for example, that I want to know where it came from. Of course I assumed it may have evolved into ‘beverage’, but I think it’s actually more like “afternoon tea” for many people, (or “a little something” for Winnie the Pooh).

Back to Bethia. She’s a girl growing up on what is now Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts and now a favourite holiday spot of wealthy, influential Americans. She loves nothing better than galloping around on Speckle, the family horse, and absorbing what Caleb has to teach her about the island and the ocean.

“I had learned that we saw it in quite different ways. He had taught me, long ago, how to see a school of fish moving through the water deep below the surface— how a certain change of light and dark could disclose them and reveal where one must throw out a net. Because of him, the sea to me was no longer an opaque mystery, but a most useful lens.”

Her family knows nothing of him, of course. She is also not supposed to be listening to the lessons her minister father gives his son and others, but something she learned from her mother (and had trouble practising!) was how and when to hold her tongue.

“She was like a butterfly, full of color and vibrancy when she chose to open her wings, yet hardly visible when she closed them.
. . .
My mother taught me the use of silence.”


She does put that advice to good use by being quiet and slow when setting and clearing the table while the menfolk are discussing serious events, and by doing so, she melts into the background and hears and learns far more than her father intends.

He loves her and her quick wit, but he despairs for her future, hoping she'll marry well. The book concentrates on her desire to learn and on the Native Americans being invited to learn and study at the new Harvard College (from the age of 16). England is determined to make inroads into the resident population and funds their education, but after the “crossing” for study (from the island and onto the mainland), the book takes another turn.

I enjoyed the characters and the story, but I was never completely absorbed in it. The stilted language makes it feel authentic but causes me to see too many words as terms rather than as phrases and sentences telling me a story. Might be just me.

I was fascinated by the information about the Wampanoag people and how they lived, and I still enjoy her fine writing. I completely understand the feeling of a

“. . . day so sweet and still that I moved through it as if floating in a bath of honey. It had rained hard the night before; that kind of heavy, sharp-scented summer rain that lays the dust and washes the pollen from the air, leaving everything rinsed and bright.”

If you like reading about early America, this is a great place to start. But keep a search engine handy for vocabulary if you’re that sort of reader.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,510 followers
April 9, 2014
This fourth novel by Brooks was quite successful to me at immersing the reader in a 17th century colony on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and bringing to life important issues of the time from a personal perspective. It takes place in the golden period of peace with the Indians between the first colony in Plymouth in 1620 and the onset of King Philip’s War in 1675, which was covered so well in Philbrick’s popular history “Mayflower”. In this period, cooperation worked relatively well, and it seemed that there was enough room for both peoples.

The story here covers the coming of age of a Puritan preacher’s daughter, Bethia Mayfield, and her secret friendship with a Wampanoag boy known as Caleb. They learn each other’s language and cultural traditions in an open and respectful way. This was the most satisfying part of the book for me, taking place in the context of the natural, unspoiled beauty of the setting. Even as a young teenager, Bethia’s brilliant mind sees beyond the outlook that the Indian belief in many gods is the work of Satan. Her father has a lot of respect for the Indians as people, but that doesn’t deter his overall mission of converting them to Christianity. He institutes a separate community of “praying Indians” similar to those pioneered by John Eliot in the Boston area. Unlike the Jesuits in Canada who tried to get the Indians to add Christianity to their traditional culture, these are pressured to abandon their usual way of life. We are proud that Caleb takes up special preparatory education to enter a special program at Harvard and proves himself the equal of whites in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but it is inevitable to feel also the tragedy of his sacrifice in giving up his way of life.

More of the story’s focus is on Bethia’s negotiation of a pathway toward a fulfilling position in this society where there are few options for a woman interested in books and ideas. She begins to find a niche in her local community helping with midwifery and adapting herbal medicine to the care of the sick. She struggles with jealousy over her brother’s education towards becoming a minister despite inferior talent compared to her own. She rises to the challenges of tragedies in her community and seeds of conflict between peoples when Caleb’s medicine man uncle tries to fight back against erosion of their culture. She does find a believable solution. There is no descent into a sappy love story in the plot, nor drift into artificial drama. Brooks works backward from the fact of a Native American graduate at Harvard and conceives of a realistic but engaging story that can account for how that could have happened.

I have appreciated all four of Brook’s diverse efforts in historical fiction. I this tale, Bethia is a woman ahead of her time, much like the heroine in Brook’s “A Year of Wonders” who assumes a valuable role in a late medieval English town quarantined with a plague outbreak. Although to many the disastrous plight of Native Americans in the face of the European colonial domination of America might seem inevitable, I like to imagine the prospects of alternatives. And this tale in the early decades of the New England colonies shines for its window on those lost possibilities of peace and understanding between peoples.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews592 followers
May 31, 2021
Sometimes my words falter, when I try to describe my love for the kind of historical fiction Geraldine Brooks bestows to her readers, for I truly consider them gifts. Maybe it's in the way her books completely inhabit a certain era and setting, even assuming the characters' language and dialect. Maybe it's in the way the inner mind is revealed in each abysmal narrative. Maybe it is because of the cultures, important historical timeframes and events rarely mentioned -- those that are brought to the forefront through stylistically alluring narrative. Maybe it is in the way historical research is exemplified through lucid, sometimes lyrical, prose. Who knows. Whatever it is, the definition eludes me, or perhaps it is in all these things I mention. What I do know is the feeling, that awareness that comes with knowing you're in the hands of a writer who has done diligent research and structuring.
Who are we, really? Are our souls shaped, our fates written in full by God, before we draw our first breath? Do we make ourselves, by the choices we our selves make? Or are we clay merely, that is molded and pushed into the shape that our betters propose for us?

I didn't love People of the Book, I loved the somber language in Year of Wonders, and I was taken captive by the melancholic music of March. And now this book. Bethia is the narrator that lures you from your world into her mire. She loses her mother when her baby sister is born, and soon after, she starts to lose everyone she loves. She becomes a servant to put her brother through college; she who reads rare books in secret because she hopes to go to college like her brother, even though she is told that because she is a woman, she must marry, have children, cook, and clean. Unshaken, Bethia sneaks and self-educates. Her voice is the emboldened one of feministic womanhood; a woman who manages to make a romantic choice that befits her mind--yes, finally, a heroine from the 1600s who marries the guy who allows her to remain herself.

When Bethia narrates the story of Caleb, it is intimate and revealing. There are moment when words form onto the page from her heartbeats and at those moments, it's impossible to take a break from the book. The story of Caleb is based on the true story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a seventeenth-century graduate of Harvard, and the first Native American to do so. The notes state: "Harvard's 1650 charter describes its mission as 'the education of the English and Indian youth of this country,' " oh the surprising things we learn when we read. The setting centers around the elite Martha Vineyard, once partly Native American territory.

Caleb enters Bethia's life when it is forbidden, because she is a Christian minister's daughter, she is a white woman, and her Native American neighbors are considered heathens and savages. Despite this, Bethia and Caleb become best friends who traverse their broken world through the Wôpanâak language. What transpires during Caleb's Crossing to the English language, to Christianity, and to English schooling is breathtakingly inspiring, heartbreaking because of the irony that will lead to his misfortune, and profoundly moving.
…His name was Cheeshahteaumauck. In his tongue, it means something like "hateful one." When he told me this, I thought that my limited grasp of his language was defeating me. For what manner of people would name a child so? But when I asked if his father indeed hated him, he laughed at me. Names, he said, flow into one like a drink of cool water, remain for a year or a season, and then, maybe, give way to another, more apt one.

He calls her "Storm Eyes." For a season, she will daringly become this name, and then one day, she will tell him to stop calling her that, for the name only suited her for a season.

Do we make ourselves by the choices we our selves make? In this intermingling of fate, faith and choice, life is questioned after a man of God perishes at sea, and an innocent child faces peril; when a young man leaves the home where he is loved for another home where he is tolerated; when death looms at every intersection; when gender and ethnic strife take precedence. I closed this book thinking, all great books enlighten the mind, enrage the spirit, and enrapture the heart while forcing one to note the essence of humanity.
Profile Image for Julie Ekkers.
257 reviews21 followers
July 15, 2011
I have read nearly all of Geraldine Brooks' books (fiction and non), and have really enjoyed all that I have read. Caleb's Crossing just didn't do it for me. I thought it started slow, but then once it got going, I was very much into it--enjoying the strong female character who is smart and ahead of her time (something I think Brooks has done well in the past). I also enjoyed the exploration of the tension created for and between the two main characters by different religious experiences. But when I reached the end, I couldn't help thinking Geraldine phoned it in. The ending is one of these and-now-I'm-going-to-cover-50-years-in-ten-pages-because-I-don't-trust-you-Reader-to-be-happy-imagining-those-years endings. I was so disappointed, *especially* knowing how glorious the ending to Year of Wonders (Brooks' first novel with a strong female character ahead of her time) was. There, the central character plunges into the tumult of a wharf and the tide of life with confidence and spirit. I was just let down by the treatment of the ending, and the fate of the central female character, in Caleb's Crossing.
Profile Image for Juliana Philippa.
1,010 reviews918 followers
July 16, 2015
Deeply affecting novel (4.5 stars)

Absolutely stunning book. I read from page 63 to the end in one sitting because I just could not put it down. Utterly lovely and heartbreaking.

Bethia, the narrator, is a strong female voice and beautifully written. The other characters are vividly drawn and just as affecting. The way Brooks has written the book - from three points in Bethia's life, but looking back on what has happened to bring her to that point - is very skilfully done and provides an arc to the narrative that gives the reader a sense of completeness. That she has used the small amount she uncovered about this real man's life oh so long ago to write this book shows her remarkable imagination and her talent for creating lives and whole histories from small kernels of truth.

Caleb and Bethia's lives intersect and cross over one another in both magical and tragic ways, but it is representative of the two very different worlds they come from and what so often happened upon these worlds' meeting. There is a true beauty to their friendship and story that even now, as I am writing this, brings me to tears.

Both characters are struggling to find their place in their ever-changing world. Bethia is trying to balance her identity as a Christian woman with that of a seeker of knowledge who craves and rejoices in learning; her conversations on this topic with others and her own inner thoughts and desires provide us with very interesting insight into how women's education and a woman's place were viewed at the time. Caleb is trying to stay true to the spirits and the Wampanoag way of life, while also finding a place for himself and his people so that they may survive these newcomers and the unstoppable change they bring. The dialogue between him and Bethia regarding their separate religions and traditions, as well as Bethia's own reflections, gives rise to very thought-provoking issues regarding faith, religion, spirituality, and culture. Is it possible to wed two different ways of thinking, two different belief systems? Does an attempt to do so automatically compromise one or both? How do we stay true to ourselves and our history, while also adapting in order to survive?

I took Caleb's Crossing out from the library, but will want to buy my own copy. It's an emotionally engaging and deeply moving work that I know I will want to reread. Raw as it left me feeling, I know this story will stay with me for many, many days, causing me to question and wonder.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,106 reviews2,666 followers
September 20, 2018
3.5s

Bethia Mayfield was twelve years of age when she met Caleb, one of the local native Wampanoag inhabitants in a jaunt across the beaches of Great Harbor. As he taught Bethia the native ways, she knew she had to keep her burgeoning friendship with Caleb a secret. Her father was a minister, and the life of a young girl in 1665 was closeted – letting him know of her friendship with Caleb was something she knew she could never do.

After Bethia’s mother died in childbirth, she took over the care of her father, brother and baby sister. She loved to learn, using her father’s teaching of her brother to help her; her horse Speckle and Bethia were inseparable as they raced across the countryside. And as she grew to womanhood, Caleb was being educated by her father until he was sent to Harvard College where his studies included Latin and Greek. He became the first Native American to matriculate college.

Caleb’s Crossing by Aussie author Geraldine Brooks is a fascinating insight into the cultures and differences back in 17th century America, while our narrator, Bethia is a strong character and suffers tragedy and loss, heartache and sorrow. The Afterword is extremely interesting as the author explains about the real-life Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk and her inspiration to create the fictional story in Caleb’s Crossing. Recommended.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,270 followers
June 26, 2011
Based on somewhat vague historical records, and inspired by the real life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a member of the Wampanoag tribe in Great Harbor (now Martha's Vineyard) Geraldine Brooks tells the story of "Caleb''s Crossing." Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665. Narrated by the fictional character of Bethia Mayfield, daughter of a minister in a Puritan New England settlement that have distanced themselves from the mainland in order to distance themselves from the more rigid Colony. As minister, Bethia’s father’s role is to and offer salvation to the indigenous tribes, convert and instruct them in all ways, including schooling. Bethia's narrative begins in her earlier years, retelling the story of her father's conversion of his first Native, who teachers her father the language of the resident Wampanoag tribe. Bethia, while eager to learn all that is withheld from her as a young woman, takes every opportunity to listen in on lessons unobserved.
In her role as a dutiful daughter she is exploring the land near her home in search of food, when she encounters a young Wampanoag boy near her age of twelve, and with what little of his language she learned from listening in on lessons, in their awkward introductions she renames him Caleb. Through Caleb, she learns that the ways of his people are not so different than her own people as others would have her believe. As time passes, her admiration for him, his reverence and appreciation for that which is given to man seems more in line with the spoken Christian principles on which she is raised than perhaps the actions of some of her own people. Thus begins the lifelong relationship she forms with Caleb.

Geraldine Brooks research pays off in weaving in the language, locations, schools and some of the real families of the day into this story, including the Mayfields. Caleb, Joel Iacoomis, and a Mayfield did attend Harvard at the same time. Beautifully written, the language engages you from the start and transforms you to another place and time. You won't want to put this book down.
Profile Image for Kathy .
698 reviews232 followers
September 3, 2012
Another "wow" from Geraldine Brooks! There's a level of writing and storytelling that consistently sets the bar high, and Brooks sets this high bar with every stroke of the key. She continues to find the obscure thread of history and create a story around it that completely enthralls the reader. As with her previous novels, I became ensconced into the time, places, and people of this tale. There is always a higher calling to the stories, a David vs. Goliath struggle that finds you passionately pulling for the underdog and exasperated with the ignorance and intolerance of those in power.

Caleb's Crossing is a tale inspired by the first Native American graduate of Harvard, Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a member of the Wopanaak tribe from what is now Martha's Vineyard. In 1665, he accomplished this extraordinary feat, having learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in the process. Brooks was able to take scant information about this amazing scholar and spin a plausible and intriguing story that vividly recreates the era of history in which Native Americans were usually referred to as salvages (savages) and women were routinely denied control of their destinies. The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, daughter of Great Harbor's, as part of the island was called then, minister. Her grandfather had purchased the land from the Indians, attempting in his own way, a fair settlement. Bethia and Caleb become friends at a young age, unbeknownst to their families and friends, and exude some influence over each other. She teaches him English, and he teaches her his native tongue and the riches of the island's natural beauties. Life is hard on the island, and indeed in the late 17th century America, and Bethia and Caleb must overcome many prejudices and tragedies to claim a piece of the budding new world for themselves. Both clash with controlling family members, Bethia with her brother and Caleb with his uncle, and their relatives' ideas of what is best for them in contrast to what the two friends secretly covet. The novel is as much about breaking free of the chains that bind one as it is about Caleb's rise to Harvard graduate. The treatment of Native Americans and women had much in common in the 1660's age of white man's suppressive authority. Some would allow that the struggle still continues.

As with her previous novel, People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks has given readers a fascinating historical fiction read in Caleb's Crossing. Her writing is superb and her subjects are unparalleled in their captivating ability to transport the reader to another time and place. Perhaps, Brooks' novels should more accurately be listed under time travel.
Profile Image for B0nnie.
136 reviews49 followers
January 25, 2012
If you cross The Mill on the Floss with The Last of the Mohicans, add a dash of Dances with Wolves, a pinch of Little House on the Prairie, maybe some The Education of Little Tree , The Scarlet Letter and even Tom Brown's School Days, you'll have a winner and call it Caleb's Crossing.

It's a good clean-cut visit to 17th c. Massachusetts, told by a girl named Bethia. Her family are Puritans trying to convert the "Indians". The relationship between Bethia and her brother is very much like that of Maggie and Tom Tulliver. Caleb is Natty Bumppo, Tom Brown and Little Tree all rolled into one.

The Caleb of the story is the real life Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, who became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University In 1665. Almost nothing is known about him. Brooks has done much research to create a plausible back story.

Yet, I felt skeptical about many of the things the characters said, and how they interacted. Would they really say that, do that? The general themes of coming to terms with inequality and intolerance, rich vs poor, men vs women, seemed anachronistic, too modern, in spite of the good effort to use language in an authentic way - even that seemed laid on a bit thick. But then, I just let go of this over-analysis and enjoyed the story.

This would be a very good YA book, especially for girls.

caleb
Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck
Profile Image for Lorna.
683 reviews367 followers
July 23, 2021
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks is an intense historical fiction novel about Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a member of the Wonpannaak bands, his father being a sonquem, or leader in the early 1600s on an island that we now know as Martha's Vineyard. Caleb was admitted to Harvard in 1661 and was the first native American to do so. But the heart and soul of this book was the fictional life of Bethia Mayfield, a young girl with a thirst for knowledge who would meet those needs in creative ways, being the daughter and grandaughter of English Calvanist ministers. The most beautiful part of this book was the friendship that developed between Bethia and Caleb when they were only twelve years old but enjoying all of the beauty on the island as they risk everything to immerse themselves in one another's culture.

"He said he would call me Storm Eyes, since my eyes were the color of a thunderhead. Well and good, said I. But I will rename you, also, because to me you are not hateful. I told him I would call him Caleb, after the companion of Moses in the wilderness, who was noted for his observation and his fearlessness."


This was an enchanting book by one of my favorite authors. And I must say that this was a beautiful ending to this lovely book about some very courageous and adventurous people.
Profile Image for Stephanie C.
242 reviews30 followers
July 9, 2022
I fell in love with Geraldine Brooks with Year of Wonders (though probably not the best time to read about a plague during Covid lockdowns). She is a master at digging into a time period and bringing forth all the societal nuances and norms that encompass the characters and plot. Especially so, she writes so eloquently on the time period of the 1600-1700's with aplomb and thorough research.

Caleb's Crossing started out SO STRONG about a young Puritan girl named Bethea who befriends a Native American (Caleb), and they become cautious friends and learn each other's languages and customs with childlike naivety. What was so intensely striking was how the Puritan ministers would try to convert the "heathens" to God-fearing Christians, and this made them look so clumsy and aloof to the Indians' culture and worldview lens. Honestly, it was a bit embarrassing and downright cringeworthy - albeit fascinating - when Brooks juxtaposes the two cultures side by side and the Indians appear to be the civilized ones. Yet the two unlikely friends are able to withstand all the prejudice and stay fast friends, much to the chagrin of both families.

And then, Brooks bafflingly takes a turn from focusing on such an incredibly wonderful story and instead switches to the girl's marital status with everyone trying to marry her off to the correct lineage and husband that would ensure her financial security. Yet, Bethea finagles a way to audit courses at a university while churning butter in the next room so that she can hear the lectures, all the while helping a teenage girl who has miscarried escape the bonds of being branded a whore because she was carrying a bastard child (definitely reminiscent of The Scarlet Letter). Personally, I felt Brooks's switch was so odd and unsatisfactory, and Caleb was subsequently pushed into the background while Bethea pined over her future (quite unrealistically I might add, for women did not really have choices back then). I get that Brooks wanted to bring forth a strong female protagonist, but it detracted from the true story that had originally held me captive. Caleb also ends up the first-ever Native American to attend/graduate from Harvard (crossing from Native American to American culture), but so little attention was paid to such a momentous event where this could have and should have been - an intensely strong story line.

Caleb's Crossing started out with an incredible premise that I feel got lost in annoying romance and a headstrong girl - yes, women's empowerment is sometimes great to read, but it simply did not fit here - and I wanted more of Caleb's experience with the White Man, which somehow got lost in the shuffle. He eventually becomes a rather minor character that attends the university, but his story unfortunately becomes very marginalized. HIS story - not Bethea's - I feel would have been a much more intriguing tale, and instead of them becoming distant friends, I would have liked to see a glimmer of hope that they were able to overcome all the prejudice and discrimination thrown their way and remain the fast friends they once were. I felt, too, sorely disappointed that Caleb's embracing of the American culture and his diminished role in his own native tribe was sad to see.

Still, overall a good period piece that will teach you much about women's roles in the late 1600's amidst the settling of the American colonies and the "taming" of the savages. Unfortunately, it just didn't finish as strong as it had begun.
Profile Image for Fiona.
40 reviews
July 16, 2011
I ended Geraldine Brooks novel with regret which I was surprised to find. At first I wondered if I would become as engaged with it as I'd hoped, having enjoyed People of the Book, March so much. However after remonstrating with myself a little, I was rewarded.

In Caleb's Crossing Ms Brooks comes nearer to Margaret Atwood's greatest literary achievements than Margaret Atwood has managed in several of her own more recent novels and I think it's fair to draw the comparison for many reasons, not the least of which are the staggering scope of their creative talent and their critical acclaim. But enough of Ms Atwood!

In Caleb's Crossing, the writing in the style of the era is meticulously researched and memorable without being cumbersome. There is also such confidence in handling of the 1st person narrative, that of a woman who is intelligent but without rights of education or self determination. The depiction of the pedagogy of the day and the teaching of the Classics is outstanding. The genesis of Harvard too is interesting, and not just as the locus of where Caleb is educated in the classics and slotted into the harsh confines of a white, Puritan society in the New World.

Those seeking a novel with a predictable romance between the two main characters may be surprised at how Ms Brooks deals with that possibility and I applaud her willingness to explore romantic love differently and to not have the story-telling mechanics of that dominating a far more important message.

Most importantly to me, and simplistically speaking, it's a story written in the new millennium with the "noble savage" as its central literary metaphor, made brutally clear as we read of the fate of the colonised (Caleb and his community) versus the prosperity of the colonisers (Bethia and her community). (I think that Ms Brooks possibly indulges that myth a little too much but there you go). And the main setting, Martha's Vineyard, emerges with a beautifully described persona, which is also in keeping with the evolving literary themes of the day.

These are hardly new themes but it's what I took most from this novel. The lessons drawn from Caleb's "crossing" are painful and extremely sad. Societies seemed compelled, both then and now, to eradicate all evidence of the "other" culture in order to demonstrate that homogeneity is seemingly preferable to respect for differences and uniqueness. Insodoing, the literary myth of the "noble savage" perished along with its inspiration. I'd be a little surprised if other readers did not also feel regret when the story ended whether they drew these conclusions or not. I'll be interested to read other reviews.
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
867 reviews94 followers
October 24, 2022
I have many conflicting views on this one. Having read Ms Brooks previously and her being such a respected writer of historical fiction, I really looked forward to reading about Caleb, as the first native American Harvard graduate, who came from Martha's Vineyard, one of my favourite places having visited a few times in the past.

I noted previously in my notes that I had difficulty with the text, especially in her use of 'salvages' for describing the natives of the island, the use of words such as 'loose' when lose would have been 'proper English'. I was then informed that Ms Brooks intentionally used these and many other words from the time in her attempt to make it feel more authentic, but without any explaination in my kindle edition at the start or even in her closing historical notes. Using such words in dialogue work for me, but she often interspersed them in the narrative as well, which did not work for me and I felt it was overly 'clever' and I rarely like clever in writers.

I also personally find more in historical fiction, which I have previously loved as I have a degree in history from Uni, nowadays it is hard to read of the racism and sexism of previous times without feeling anger, which I realise is the point. And of course the Christian/Puritan bent of the times I also now find difficult to read, although Ms Brooks certainly painted Bethia as an admirable woman from that time.

Started as a buddy read, but eventually became a bit of a slog for me, I wish I had enjoyed it more. 3.5 stars marked down to 3 just because it did not work for me personally.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
889 reviews120 followers
September 29, 2019
Rambling thoughts while listening to this book:

Caleb should have stayed with his tribe.

I can’t stand these stiff, stuffy, uppity, judgmental, racist, bigoted, and misogynist Jesus Freaks. No one needs to be saved either.

I wonder what Bill Maher will have to say tonight now that our president is in the line of fire.

I could have read four Nancy Drew books in the time it took me to read this boring book.

When this book is finished, I can read “Music of the Swamp.”

Geraldine Brooks, while a beautiful lyrical writer, just talks too much in this book. Our book group members would say this differently, “She is too verbose.”

I wonder if Shirley will like it.

I wish that I had our book group read Year of Wonders, which I loved, instead of this book.

I am so glad thatthis book t is over with.

I am kind of proud of myself for having finished this monster.

And now for my review:

Years ago, I tried to read Chesapeake by James Mitchener. It started out like this with the Indians living on the land, and then the Europeans came, and I put the book down. My IQ was higher back then. I know this to be true, because I knew when to put a book down.

In this book, Bethea meets a younghandsome male Indian and they become friends on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1660s when the island was pristine. They met often and taught each their own ways. Life was good. There was no pollution. Bethea named this Indian Caleb after a man in the bible. Life became bad after that. Names have meanings because Caleb became a Christian.

He named Bethea, Stormy Eyes. I reminded of the time I was gardening out by the road, and an Indian stopped by to talk to me, actually, to harass this old woman. He told me that I had dancing eyes. I should have said, “You mean baggy eyes,” but I was trying to get rid of him and didn’t wish to keep the conversation going.

time goes on, Caleb goes to Harvard. Bethea moves to Cambridge to become a servant in a house. Caleb gets his degree, and Bethea must learn through osmosis, because women can’t go to college. They should just stay home and cook, clean, and do the laundry, which they will have plenty to do when it comes to washing diapers. End of book.

Bill Maher was in a good mood, and I can now read another book.
Profile Image for Laura.
748 reviews270 followers
September 12, 2013
3.75 stars. I think the best part about this book is its insights into American Indian culture and spirituality. I found those aspects absolutely fascinating. The characters were well-drawn, and I feel like I know them well. Her writing is always good. Certainly there was lots of tragedy here, which may attract some readers, but not this one.

The part of the main character's life in which I was most interested was skipped over almost entirely. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it feels as though the author got tired of the book and decided to end it. I wasn't satisfied by the ending. It seemed like a big build-up and then, not an outright collapse, but a sharp turn and then *poof* end of book. I'm not sure what to make of it.

The audiobook did not enhance my reading experience in this case. The accent felt forced and the delivery was slow.

I'm glad I read this book, and I feel I learned a lot about 1600s America, which seemed accurate. The atmosphere was great, Brooks really shines here. I don't know. Can't put my finger on it, but it just didn't hang together completely for me. I expected more from the ending, and Bethia's adult years were virtually skipped, leaving a big hole in the story in my view. I'm left wanting more.
Profile Image for Kelly.
273 reviews182 followers
September 23, 2011
The language of this book is simply astounding. I have found myself enthralled by Geraldine Brooks' writing before, but she attained a new level here. When I think of the research required for her to voice Bethia so authentically, and then render it in a way that makes sense to a modern reader, I am properly impressed.

Entwined with the study of language, fictional and real, is the story of two young people from very different worlds who each look to learn about the other with varying success. Yes, this is a vague summary, but the point of my review is not to tell the tale, but give my impressions of it.

Despite the tragedy - which is not overwrought - there are light moments, enough of them, in fact, that the book did not feel ponderous. Where I did feel the lack was in the conclusion of Caleb's portion of the tale. This may be a personal failing on my part, however, as I had hoped throughout for a different ending and a different partnership.

All in all, this is an exceptional and worthwhile novel. I will continue to purchase and read anything written by Geraldine Brooks.
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews508 followers
March 12, 2012

This is a book I fully expected to love, as I am a long-time fan of the author. Brooks was an excellent journalist and writer of non-fiction before she became a respected writer of historical novels. She writes elegant prose and has the ability to evoke a sense of time and place without overdoing the period detail. She can also impart historical information without resorting to tedious information dumps. Of crucial importance, Brooks has sound research skills. As a reader, I always feel confident that she will use reliable sources and get the details right. In addition, Brooks creates memorable characters who fully inhabit the environment in which they are placed. While Brooks uses her novels to explore themes of interest to modern readers, her characters are never just contemporary people in period clothing.

This novel has as its background the story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, who in 1665 became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College, which later became Harvard University. Caleb was from Martha’s Vineyard (Brooks’ adopted home) and the narrative also deals with the first English settlements on the island and the relationships between its Native American inhabitants and the colonists. As relatively little is known about the historical Caleb, Brooks tells the story from the point of view of a fictitious character, Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a colonial leader who develops a friendship with Caleb and who struggles with the varying demands of faith, family, community, friendship and a desperate desire for education. The novel is Bethia’s diary and memoir.

There’s a lot to like about the novel. The characters are believable and while Caleb is less vivid than the title of the novel would suggest, this is not surprising, given how little is known about the real-life Caleb. Brooks is only prepared to let her imagination about Caleb’s life go so far and to me this is entirely appropriate. The details about the relationships between the colonists and the Native Americans are interesting, as are the accounts of preparatory schooling and the life of scholars at Harvard College. Crucially, Bethia’s tale is poignant and involving.

So why did this book leave me a little disappointed? It wasn’t the writing, which was as good as always. But for all of the novel’s qualities, I felt a little disconnected from the narrative: I was not nearly as involved with the novel as I was with Brooks’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel March. On reflection, my reaction probably has a lot more to do with me than it does with the book. I think that as a general rule I prefer historical fiction when it does not centre on characters who really existed. I find myself wondering about the “real” story just a bit too much to completely lose myself in the narrative*. In the case of this novel, I found myself wanting to get to the end so that I could read the author’s note and find out more about Brooks’ research. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I would rather read a historian or biographer’s take on the primary sources than a novelist’s, particularly if the novelist bases their research on histories or biographies written by someone else. That’s not a big concern with Brooks’ writing; she is too experienced to fudge her research. But spending even part of the time I was reading this novel wondering about the real Caleb’s life was a little distracting.

Overall, notwithstanding my vague sense of disappointment, I did like the novel quite a lot. My respect for Geraldine Brooks as a writer remains very high. I will read anything she writes. This comes in at about 3-1/2 stars.

*The exception to this might be Wolf Hall, which I loved so much as a novel that I didn't care if it was accurate history.
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews544 followers
March 2, 2017
This felt like Atonement crossed with Puritan history-lite and dusted with a sprinkling of chick lit. Not a bad combo, but also not something I would have sought. The audiobook popped up for free, and I grabbed it.

Having had zero idea of what this novel was about, it was surprising to find myself on Martha's Vineyard in the mid 1600s. The somewhat stilted and old-fashioned language was quite beautifully rendered and easy to follow. The author appeared to have done a fine job showing how females and American Indians were treated during that time period, however not being a history buff myself, I have no way of judging how accurate these portrayals were. The fact that the young woman protagonist of the story was so strong headed that she was permitted to wait years to marry seemed a little hard to swallow, but what do I know?

The book seemed oddly titled to me because Caleb was not the main character, however I have come to understand that the book was marketed on the fact that there really was at Harvard a program to educate Native Americans. Of course, Caleb was one of these. Perhaps "Witness to Caleb's Crossing" might have fit better as the book is portrayed as a series of diary entries made by a Puritan girl whose chance meeting with an American Indian boy set in motion the action of the book that covers the next 50 or 60 years.

Not bad. Not great.
Profile Image for Anne.
398 reviews15 followers
November 14, 2012
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, Brooks has meticulously constructed the highly detailed and imagined colonial world of the narrator, Bethia Mayfield. As a woman, Bethia chafes at the religious and social constraints of this world. Her biggest lament, however, is that she doesn't share the same access to education that her brother does. The language used throughout this account is astoundingly historical true to era, and I found myself checking the meaning of such words as tegs, shallops, wetus, bavins, and cressets. The language construct flavors this novel with authenticity and I appreciated the masterful accomplishment of creating a serious historical novel.

Ostensibly, the core of this novel is about Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, born around 1646, a member of the Wopanaak tribe of Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard), and the first American Indian to graduate from Harvard College. The problem I have with this book is that the character of Caleb is only seen obliquely--more so early in the book and virtually not at all towards the end. I was drawn to the book because I was interested in his story, but really, it is all about Bethia. And I don't know if it is the archaic language or what, but she never really becomes real to me.


Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,051 reviews212 followers
December 1, 2021
This read carried forward much of the weather and landscape as I went through it - so the wind whipped about, the cold, wetness of the island perched in a threatening sea was very present for me, reading along.

Caleb was who I was most interested in, and the one I learned about the least. Bethia, on the other hand, well, I felt for her. She was a modern girl plunked down in an old age where she is limited by society and all the men around her (who are supported in their reign by women). The system in place amongst her people, and even Caleb's people have their own kind of limitations. Bethia fought and kicked against the pricks (biblical pricks. . .not the same as 2021 pricks) and as usual for a child raised in an environment steeped in guilt (the gift that never stops giving) when something catastrophic happens she blames her short ride on the wild side (which it wasn't) as a terrible consequence, and price to pay (thank you, religion!).

The best parts of the book for me were the opportunities to travel back and imagine life "back then" - a kind of time travel. But the story didn't hold me as I thought it would, and the characters didn't pull me in. But, good enough.

(Apologies for all the parentheticals. Clearly I have strong feelings.)
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,475 reviews372 followers
August 12, 2011
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks is intelligently written and emotionally moving. Brooks captures the tone and thought of 17th century America without letting her prose become enslaved to an attempt to mimic the language of the time. The story of Caleb, one of two native americans to graduate from Harvard College is based upon a real story. Unfortunately, little history of his life or experience exists. Based on what little there is, Brooks weaves her story around the known history of that time and place through the narration of an imagined young girl who meets Caleb when they are both nearly children and whose lives become intertwined.

I loved everything about this book. This history was fascinating but never obtrusive-everything about this book is beautifully crafted and the story both moving and engaging. And if some of what I wished had happened did not...well, that speaks to the truth of the time and Brooks' imagining of it.

A fine story, beautifully written.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,243 reviews534 followers
December 18, 2012
Caleb's Crossing is a novel of opposites, the wild yet peaceful island life lived by the Mayfield family and their friends and cohorts, governed by God but ruled with love (most of the time) surrounded by the sea, fields, and the unchanged lands belonging to the Indians. Then there is the even more Puritanical world of the mainland and the city that holds the college founded by Harvard, a city of small tight streets, filth and stench and narrow people.

This story is narrated by Bethia Mayfield, first a young girl, then a young woman, who chaffs at the limitations placed on women of her time. She, unlike Caleb, is wholely fictional, Brooks' creation completely. She encounters Caleb while they are both young, while she is wandering around the island one day. They become friends over time, learning each other's language, keeping this friendship secret.

Building on the bare bones of history, Brooks has created a story that brings this distant era alive. I can well imagine a Bethia, anxious to learn the subjects her brother is unable to master. When she learns of the poet Anne Bradstreet she is ecstatic. Here is a woman who has used her brain. And Anne Hutchinson also, before her thoughts moved to heresy.

While Caleb is the titular character, and the one who is borne out in historical record as the first Indian of his tribe to attend Harvard, it is Bethia who provides the meat of this novel; she spies on the students at work as she used to eavesdrop on her brother being taught by her father. Both are punishable offenses by a woman. She is quick to talk back. (I believe I would have been a poor and often flogged Puritan due to my difficulty in hiding my feelings)

Once again I've enjoyed a trip into history with Geraldine Brooks, having previously read People of the Book. I will definitely be reading more of her works.
Profile Image for Cynnamon.
547 reviews99 followers
September 25, 2021
For English version please scroll down

*****************

Ein auf historischen Fakten beruhender Roman über einen indianischen Harvard-Absolventen

Dieser Roman erzählt die Lebensgeschichte von Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, einem der ersten amerikanischen Ureinwohner, die einen Abschluss in Harvard erwarben.

Die Geschichte wird von Bethia erzählt, einem fiktiven Charakter, während Caleb eine tatsächliche historische Figur ist.

Bethia ist die Tocher des puritanischen Predigers und Missionars und kommt deshalb schon von frühester Jugend an ständig und intensiv mit Religion in Berührung. Die Familie hat 1641 Land auf einer Insel erworben, die später einmal Martha’s Vineyard heissen soll. Dort lernt Bethia mit 12 Jahren Caleb kennen, während sie sich unter dem Vorwand Beeren zu sammeln o.ä. der Aufsicht ihrer Familie entzieht. Wenige Jahre später lässt Caleb sich im Glauben der Engländer unterweisen, besucht ihre Schule und geht schließlich nach Harvard.

Bethia berichtet die Geschichte in einer Art Tagebuch. Ich fand leider weder die Story noch den Schreibstil besonders ansprechend, will heißen ich habe mich gründlich gelangweilt und das Buch dann teilweise nur überflogen. Auch dass Bethia immer wieder versucht, sich gegen die religiösen und frauenfeindlichen Zwänge ihrer Zeit aufzulehnen, macht das Buch nicht interessanter, da sie dann immer wieder aufgrund von Schuldgeführen klein beigibt.

Aus meiner Sicht bestenfalls 2 Sterne.

---------------------

A historical fact-based novel about a Harvard Indian graduate

This novel tells the life story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, one of the first Native Americans to graduate from Harvard.

The story is told by Bethia, a fictional character, while Caleb is an actual historical character.

Bethia is the daughter of the Puritan preacher and missionary and has therefore come into constant and intensive contact with religion from an early age. In 1641 the family acquired land on an island that will later be called Martha's Vineyard. There Bethia meets Caleb at the age of 12, while under the pretext of collecting berries or similar, she evaded the supervision of her family. A few years later, Caleb was instructed in the English faith, attended school and eventually went to Harvard.

Bethia reports the story in a kind of diary. Unfortunately, I found neither the story nor the writing style particularly appealing, that is to say, I was thoroughly bored and then just skimmed the book at times. The fact that Bethia repeatedly tries to rebel against the religious and misogynistic constraints of her time does not make the book any more interesting, as she then repeatedly gives in because of the guilty people.

From my point of view, 2 stars at best.
535 reviews22 followers
November 29, 2012
I was disappointed in this book.
The author is a favorite of mine and I was looking forward to the book.
The writing is very good, clear and vivid. She uses it to create the atmosphere of the time effectively.
I couldn't get involved with the characters. It wasn't because they weren't believable or sympathetic. I just found that I didn't care much about them.
I read more than half this book before I put it down.

There was also an undercurrent of some kind in the story that I didn't like. It was like I kept getting a whiff of something that kept pulling me out of the story. It could be my own background and lifestyle (orthodox jew) was interfering in accepting some of the ideas. I generally have a nose for PC agendas and I think that was what I was sensing. Also, I am Native American on my dad's side of the family and there is always something 'unauthentic' to me based on my personal family experience, about stories dealing with Native Americans, no matter who writes them. I have had some problems with Barbara Kingsolver and Tony Hillerman, for example, even though I love their books.

Profile Image for RitaSkeeter.
694 reviews
June 18, 2017
Who are we, really? Are our souls shaped, our fates written in full by God, before we draw our first breath? Do we make ourselves, by the choices we ourselves make? Or are we clay merely, that is molded and pushed into shape that our betters propose for us?

I’ve not yet read a book set in puritan times that hasn’t had me thanking every lucky star there is that I was born into the 20th century and not puritan times. It goes without saying that this book is no different. But having said that, I find books set in this period to be deeply fascinating. A society founded for religious freedom is very different to that of my own; a country founded by unwanted convicts and criminals. Yet there is a similarity and that relates to what the founding of those societies meant for the indigenous peoples of both those countries.

Brooks shows us glimpses of Native American culture through the eyes of a young puritan woman. We see the discomfort and lack of understanding the new settlers have of the land contrasted with the connection and spirituality of the Native Americans. We see the differing ideas of ‘ownership’ of the land, and what this means for those living a traditional lifestyle. Again, I see connection with Australia in this.

Through Bethia we also see the role of women in puritan society, which brings me to my earlier comment about being glad to live in the 20th century. Bethia is a chattel, an object; who must submit to those who were blessed to be born with a certain appendage. That Bethia is intelligent, intellectual, gifted with languages, and desires learning is irrelevant in a society where a woman’s life is tied to making a home. Of course this is not confined to this period of time, and rest assured I rant equally about that in books set in other eras as well. I am an equal opportunity ranter about the role of women. Bethia notes of her mother She was like a butterfly, full of colour and vibrancy when she chose to open her wings, yet hardly visible when she closed them. We see Bethia’s struggles against a world of grey, where she wants a world filled with colour. We see Bethia’s desires and wants subsumed to accommodate those of the male patriarchs in her family.

In some ways this feels more like a book about Bethia than about Caleb, and I wondered why it was written this way. Why not write the book from Caleb’s point of view and talk of his friendship with a young puritan girl rather than the opposite? I’m not sure what Brooks’ motivation was, but as a female I liked the added dimensions that came to the book through being from a female perspective. But I also liked Bethia’s strengthening of understanding of and connection to the physical environment, through Caleb’s influence.

This was a wonderful book. But it reminds me, as it does for Australia, that winners write the history. Where are all the novels from Native Americans? Are they out there hiding with Aboriginal literature and I just haven’t found them? If you have a recommendation, please let me know.
Profile Image for Barbara.
108 reviews
November 13, 2015
OK, I was just adding a few things to the review that I posted yesterday, and somehow I deleted the whole review (except the last two short paragraphs!!!!!) Well, it's okay, because I really loved this book, but I felt that my review wasn't strong enough, so now I have to start from scratch and rewrite the entire review. For now, I have to get back to work, so I'll be back later or tomorrow to write another review.

I absolutely loved "Caleb's Crossing" and I strongly recommend this book to anyone who can appreciate a great story based on some very important historical events.

Thank you to Goodreads for choosing me as a First Reads winner of this book, and thank you to Viking for listing this book as a giveaway, and, of course, thank you to Geraldine Brooks for writing such a beautiful book on such an interesting topic!!
Profile Image for Mahlon.
314 reviews124 followers
March 22, 2016
There is no doubt that Geraldine Brooks is a great author, but for some reason the characters in this one failed to engage me.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
419 reviews20 followers
October 31, 2022

Not a strong story for me, a weak beginning, a strong middle and a weak ending as it seemed so rushed through Bethia’s last years as a wife and mother. Caleb’s Crossing is a work of fiction, inspired by Caleb Chesshahteaumauk, a member of the Wopanaak tribe of Noepe, Martha’s Vineyard.

However that being said, the beloved prose was often reread by me.”She was like a butterfly, full of colour and vibrancy when she chose to open her wings, yet hardly visible when she closed them.”

“It had rained the night before: that kind of heavy, sharp scented summer rain that lays the dust and washes the pollen from the air, leaving everything rinsed and bright. The fragrance of ripeness and bloom grew more pungent as the morning waxed fair. The harbour sparkled, and when the slightest of breezes rippled through the sea grass, each blade shimmered like a filament of beaten silver.”
Geraldine Brooks is a truly wonderful author, thus my 4 star rating, 3 star rating on the overall story.



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