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Caleb's Crossing

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  47,395 Ratings  ·  5,417 Reviews
A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Marchand The Secret Chord, coming from Viking in October 2015

Bethia Mayfield is a restless and curious young woman growing up in Martha's vineyard in the 1660s amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. At age twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain,
Paperback, 318 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Penguin Books (first published 2011)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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.
Mar 27, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Mar
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 relativel ...more
Julie Ekkers
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 wh ...more
Juliana Philippa
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 th
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 t ...more
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 p ...more
Jan 24, 2012 B0nnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2011 Fiona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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

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 confiden
Sep 23, 2011 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. Ye
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
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,
Dale Harcombe
Jul 19, 2015 Dale Harcombe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haven't got to this yet but from snippets I have heard on the Book Show etc, I am looking forward to reading it.
5 stars - I went back and changed this after thinking about the book more.
Well now, as you can probably tell from how quickly I powered through it (one day) once I got hold of it from the library, this book fascinated me. The writing is beautiful. The voice of Bethia is so strong and drew me right in.I first heard a little read at our writing group and was hooked even then. I rarely re
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
Nov 14, 2012 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
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 wor ...more
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 t ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: CR Reading List
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,
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
Christina White
4.5 STARS! Wow!

I must say that I have not been the biggest fan of historical fiction, but I may be now. I started this book slowly, struggling with the flow of language used back in the 1600's. Then it was like I entered a time machine and I was right there. I would close the book literally thinking thoughts in that same form of speech an hour after! I cried at the end and I can tell I will be thinking of the characters for a long time to come. I am native and was born and raised on the reserva
Caleb's Crossing really clears up a lot of misconceptions about the muddle of early American history. Everybody knows a little something about the pilgrims and somehow the witch hunts came about...and during all that time there was some sort of tension/friendship with the native Americans? Geraldine Brooks lays it out simply for everyone in this novel. After reading this I finally understand the relationship between the early british and the true americans. Not only did I learn by reading this b ...more
May 12, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, beloved



I am hooked and I am only on page 27...

Finished this absorbing story last night. Thoughtful and SO closely observed. Stunning writing. Wonderful narrator. Goodness. LOVED IT.
On the island of Nantucket in the 1660's, a young girl named Bethia grows up in a Puritan household. The daughter of a minister, Bethia has the opportunity to meet members of the Wampanoag tribe, and she develops a particular (and secret) friendship with Caleb, the son of a chieftan. Author Geraldine Brooks discovered the history of a Wampanoag youth who became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. This is the foundation for her character Caleb. Through the eyes of Bethia, the read ...more
Brooks takes scant information about the first native American to graduate from Harvard and expands it into a novel-length work about the struggles of people crossing from one world to another--and being stuck in between.

As other reviewers have noted, the novel really focuses more on the narrator, Bethia, who is also from Martha's Vineyard, except that she is of English ancestry. Bethia also yearns for education, but as a woman, she is denied full access to the opportunities that her father, he
Jun 26, 2011 Schmacko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geraldine Brooks has a way with history, making it a powerful force in her fiction.

After her luminous Pulitzer-Prize-winning March, she in on that list of authors I will always read. March told the “lost” story of Little Women: the father who went into the Civil War as a pacifist minister and abolitionist and came back home (in Alcott’s words) “haunted.” Brook’s People of the Book was about a haggadah, an ancient Jewish holy book, and its extravagant history. These books (I haven’t read her firs
May 29, 2012 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What utter relief to find something readable at the airport when suddenly faced with a delayed flight. While not as compelling as People of the Book, this is well-written and engrossing. It's based on the true story of the first Indian to graduate from Harvard in 1665, seen through the eyes of an appealing young English protagonist, Bethia, living under the constricting Puritan ethic of the times in a newly formed settlement on Martha's Vineyard. Apart from Bethia's coming-of-age struggles, the ...more
Jun 22, 2011 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wowed-me
In 1665, Caleb, an American Indian becomes the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Geraldine Brooks takes this scant piece of factual information and weaves a great historical novel of Caleb and a group of fictional charcaters through the ups and down of Caleb's journey. The journey is as much Bethis's, the narrator, as it is Caleb's. Bethia, is a strong-willed girl and she and Caleb watch each others backs.. A more than pleasant read.
Mar 22, 2016 Mahlon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no doubt that Geraldine Brooks is a great author, but for some reason the characters in this one failed to engage me.
Oct 28, 2015 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-history, audiobook
The only thing that made me select this book was Geraldine Brooks' name on the cover. She has an amazing talent that I have enjoyed in her other books, so, despite this one covering an era of history that I am generally uninterested in, I decided to give it a try.

Elements are here that I was drawn to in the author's other works: detailed research, spiritual themes, multifaceted characters, and writing that evokes strong emotions. However, even Brooks could not create a story about British coloni
Elana Sztokman
Geraldine Brooks demonstrates remarkable writing skills in the way she captures the language and domestic culture of the time. Comparing her descriptions to those in Bill Bryson's "At Home" was very interesting. Her descriptions of Martha's Vineyard are also captivating, along with her explorations of the "island" mentality that dominates island living around the world.

Although at certain junctures, I found that I couldn't put the book down, at others I found myself skimming through to get to t
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Retro Chapter Chi...: November 2014: Caleb's Crossing 16 28 Dec 06, 2014 08:00PM  
Retro Chapter Chi...: Puritan Women 10 7 Nov 13, 2014 09:11AM  
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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 issu
More about Geraldine Brooks...

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“She was like a butterfly, full of color and vibrancy when she chose to open her wings, yet hardly visible when she closed them.” 26 likes
“They say the Lord's Day is a day of rest, but those who preach this generally are not women.” 9 likes
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