Kristin Gleeson's Reviews > Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
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's review
Jul 22, 2012

it was amazing

This is the story of the first Native American graduate of Harvard, viewed through the eyes of Bethia. We first meet Bethia as a young girl of the mid 17th century living on an island off of the Massacheusetts coast, the island that is now Martha's Vinyard. Her father is the minister who has taken it upon himself to try and convert the natives. Bethia's own love of the island and her early years of freedom from the onerous tasks that befell women at that time take her into contact with a young princeling who she later dubs 'Caleb.' The two become friends and learn each other's language. Tragedy brings Caleb into the Christian Indian settlement and eventually to an academy at Cambridge to prepare for entrance to Harvard. This 'crossing' from the island to the mainland for education is also a momentous crossing for Caleb who left behind his culture, his community to try and make a place for himself among a entirely different race of people. Bethia moves with him, her own destiny taking her to the academy where Caleb attends, so that she is able in some little way to help his progress, but also to learn from watching him.

The story is beautifully told with such a sympathy and evocation to the time period that the reader is fully persuaded they are a part of the tale. The historical accuracy is of such good quality and so seamlessly included into the story that you can step back and admire such talent. The one aspect that let it down, in my view, is that at the very last section of the novel Brooks seems to rush the story, telling some chunks and pausing only momentarily for a scene or two so that at the very end, when she does slow down a bit, the reader is still trying to catch up and absorb all that happened.

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