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. – Publishers Website
I fell in love with Geraldine’s work when I read People of The Book a while back now, and have just loved this one just as much. From the Great Harbour back in the 17th century, which is now known as Martha’s Vineyard; she weaves the story around a young man who just happens to be one of the first native Indians to be accepted into Harvard/ Cambridge Universities respectively.
The characters are just as inviting and diverse as the landscape and politics that surround the area. I loved Bethia, the way she asserts herself in a world that doesn’t yet accept women’s opinions or views on how just about anything is done, except for the household. It was based on a real person, Caleb is the one who is fictionalized in the novel, but the background story is true as you will see when you open the pages. Emotional, Gifted, Interesting, as well as inquisitive; this book will have you clammering for the rest of her work for sure.
I do have a Q and A I will post after my review, so just go back to the main page of the blog. I loved the answers to her questions!