Ladyslott's Reviews > Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
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Geraldine Brooks has a unique talent to take small bits and pieces of history and through painstaking research and an inventive imagination turn them into a compelling story. In Caleb’s Crossing she takes the fact that in 1665 Caleb Cheeshahteamauk was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. This is virtually the only fact known about Caleb but from that small nugget of information Brooks creates a believable story of how Caleb crossed from the Native American culture to that of the English settlers.

Told in the first person voice of Bethia Mayfield, daughter of a minister and unbeknownst to all, a friend of Caleb; the two meet as children and form a friendship that they keep to themselves for their lifetime. Bethia tells the story from late in life, looking back on that friendship. In point of fact as much as we learn about Caleb we learn far more about Bethia and once again Brooks gives voice and recognition to the lives of women living always in the shadow of the men around her, often overlooked, taken for granted and of course less than equal; even less than Native Americans who were viewed as savages; yet Caleb is afforded an education denied to Bethia because of her sex.

There is a wealth of information on how the life and culture of the people of this early settlement in Great Harbor, (now Martha’s Vineyard). There is sadness, joy, tragedy, twists and turns throughout this well written book, and although titled Caleb’s Crossing, for me this was truly Bethia’s Story.

I recommend this book for anyone looking for a fascinating take on what was little more than a footnote in American History. If you have yet to read anything by Brook’s then also recommend Year of Wonders and People of the Book; although I did read her Pulitzer Prize winning book March I didn’t care for it.

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