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Caleb's Crossing

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  61,052 ratings  ·  6,386 reviews
A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March and 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 chieftai
Paperback, 318 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Penguin Books (first published May 1st 2011)
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Lynn I have a fondness for Brooks's writings, so I willingly chose this for my reading pleasure. It proved to be absorbing focusing on a period of history …moreI have a fondness for Brooks's writings, so I willingly chose this for my reading pleasure. It proved to be absorbing focusing on a period of history rarely dealt with in history or in historical fiction. (less)
Harold Smith It never does. This book was assigned by my school and I tried to give it a chance, but its narrator is just too set in her ways and to make this stor…moreIt never does. This book was assigned by my school and I tried to give it a chance, but its narrator is just too set in her ways and to make this story interesting, there is not much character development in anyone except Makepeace and the conflicts in this book are all solved by others. Bethia is a spectator in her own life. It is a good peek into life in that time period, but it just isn't interesting.(less)

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Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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.
Apr 19, 2011 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

“. . . 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”. Ge
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
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
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
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of historical fiction, emotional reads, and strong female narrators
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

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 o
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
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 ...more
Jan 06, 2012 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
Jun 21, 2011 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
Sep 17, 2011 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
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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

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
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 13, 2011 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
May 05, 2011 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,
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
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,
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
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
Sep 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-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.
Dale Harcombe
Dec 15, 2011 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
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
Dec 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
By rights this should have been called “Bethia’s Crossing.” Despite the blurb, it was not really about Caleb at all. I understand that he was a real person, and that very little is known about him. Certainly not enough to write a book about. So Brooks created Bethia on which to hang her novel of Caleb.

Right from the gitgo Bethia did not seem a believable character to me. A little too smart, too perfect, too independent, too learned, for one in her situation in her time and religion. I suppose t
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
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brooks has once again charmed us back into a century we thought we’d never see again with this story of 17th century settlers to the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. The lush descriptions of a wild and wind-swept coast and her descriptions of Harvard College and Cambridge resonate like a memory. Her use of language is so particular, formal, and historically correct, that one feels it a foreign tongue, strange to hear and awkward to speak. But with time one thanks the a ...more
Kath ❅
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
I liked this book and found it very informative but not as enjoyable as I would have liked. I found it so interesting that this was based on true events and I felt like I learned something from reading this book. That being said, the title of this book and the description made it seem like this book would be entirely about the first Native American person to go to Harvard, Caleb. However, it was narrated by a woman named Bethia and her family and her relationship with Caleb. This wasn't
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Play Book Tag: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks 3 stars 2 15 Dec 04, 2016 04:34PM  

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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

Articles featuring this book

Harvard's first Native American student graduated in 1665. Now, the writer who gave us People of the Book recounts his story in the historical...
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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.” 30 likes
“They say the Lord's Day is a day of rest, but those who preach this generally are not women.” 14 likes
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