Kathy 's Reviews > Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
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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.
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Reading Progress

January 17, 2011 – Shelved
January 17, 2011 – Shelved as: favorite-authors
August 25, 2012 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
August 26, 2012 – Started Reading
August 28, 2012 – Finished Reading
August 29, 2012 – Shelved as: favorites
August 29, 2012 – Shelved as: great-titles
August 29, 2012 – Shelved as: setting-as-a-character
August 31, 2012 – Shelved as: highly-recommend
September 3, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012-national-book-festival-authors

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Kathy Yes, I am interested. I will take a look tomorrow when I'm not so tired. Thanks!


message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Glad you liked it, Kathy. I've always admired Brooks' writing.


Donna I listened to this with Jennifer Ehle(?) doing the reading. Very well done.


Kathy I started listening to it on audio and then switched to my hardback. The audio was great, but I wanted to mark places in my book with the skinny post-its.


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