A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the author of The Secret Chord and of March, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
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, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's father is a Calvinist minister who seeks to convert the native Wampanoag, and Caleb becomes a prize in the contest between old ways and new, eventually becoming the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. Inspired by a true story and narrated by the irresistible Bethia, Caleb’s Crossing brilliantly captures the triumphs and turmoil of two brave, openhearted spirits who risk everything in a search for knowledge at a time of superstition and ignorance.
Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks (for March) delivers a splendid historical inspired by Caleb Cheeshahteaumauck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. Brooks brings the 1660s to life with evocative period detail, intriguing characters, and a compelling story narrated by Bethia Mayfield, the outspoken daughter of a Calvinist preacher. While exploring the island now known as Martha's Vineyard, Bethia meets Caleb, a Wampanoag native to the island, and they become close, clandestine friends. After Caleb loses most of his family to smallpox, he begins to study under the tutelage of Bethia's father. Since Bethia isn't allowed to pursue education herself, she eavesdrops on Caleb's and her own brother's lessons. Caleb is a gifted scholar who eventually travels, along with Bethia's brother, to Cambridge to continue his education. Bethia tags along and her descriptions of 17th-century Cambridge and Harvard are as entertaining as they are enlightening (Harvard was founded by Puritans to educate the "English and Indian youth of this country," for instance). With Harvard expected to graduate a second Martha's Vineyard Wampanoag Indian this year, almost three and a half centuries after Caleb, the novel's publication is particularly timely.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Very well written historical fiction. I appreciate authors who do research as it makes their characters come alive. I found it fun that some of the words used had no definition found when I searched. It helped make the story feel older.
I loved this book. As an African American/Native American woman I was afraid this book would be either too painful to read given the cruel experience of Native people at the hands of the English or too "white washed" and therefore also too painful in the other direction to read. It is neither. I also loved "people of the Book". Ms Brooks has a way of making me feel included in her world that astounds me. Thank you Geraldine Brooks.
Gripping, Poignant Tale
Geraldine Brooks does a masterful job in transporting her readers back to Martha's Vineyard and Cambridge of the 1600's. European Christian dominance over the native populations, with the prejudice and subjugation is the subtext here.
The fictional young woman narrator, Bethia, lends a powerful immediacy to the tale. I just wish it would have been written without using quite so much of the old English.
Overall, it is a brilliant work of historical fiction. Highly recommended