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Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Caleb's Crossing (edition 2011)

by Geraldine Brooks

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1,897None3,596 (3.87)147
Title:Caleb's Crossing
Authors:Geraldine Brooks
Info:Fourth Estate (2011), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Books Read in 2012
Tags:Fiction, Adult

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Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks


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As many people have noted, this book is less about Caleb, and more about the narrator Bethia. Caleb was a real person and very little is known about him. Except for a few established facts, most of the story is fiction . Brooks is NOT an indigenous American, so may not have felt the right to narrate from that point of view. Seeing Caleb through the eyes of the female outsider adds a lovely poignancy and mystery to his character. It seemed more respectful to whoever Caleb really was to not tell the story from his perspective. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
rabck from megami-no-ushi; Excellent historical fiction, although a bit difficult to read at times because it's written in Bethia 1600's Puritan voice. Bethia's minster father settles in Martha's Vineyard on the coast of the Great Harbor, intending to convert the heathen savage Indians. Bethia befriends Caleb, son of a powerful Indian chief, unbeknownst to her family. The book continues, all in Bethia's voice, outlining her struggle with the narrow Calvanistic views imposed on her by her religion & being female. She also chronicles Caleb's journey from being raised an Indian, to "crossing over" cultures to become a student of her father's, and finally a Harvard Scholar. Very interesting accounting of the beginnings of Harvard. I never would have guessed. This is for book club this week, then will be rabck'd on to tobyrus. ( )
  nancynova | Mar 22, 2014 |
A lovely book. Really more Bethia's journey than Caleb's crossing, though his crossing was, indeed, significant to the book and the story. What I enjoyed most was the imagining of a young intelligent, headstrong woman in the 1600's and the difficulties she faced. A very nice historical account of life in coastal New England during that period. We have indeed, come a long way baby..... ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
The setting is New England in the mid 17 Century. The main characters are Puritans and native Americans. The book is written from the viewpoint of Bethia Mayfield, a young Puritan girl who lives on what is now known as Martha's Vineyard. It is written in journal format. Bethia begins to keep a journal when she is about 13, and she continues with it through most of her life. In it she describes what her life was like as she grew up and what she endured into young adulhood. Life was hard for English settlers in America. Everyone had to work very hard trying to eke out a living on some pretty unforgiving terrain. The book illustrates a crossing of cultures as Bethia describes her childhood friend Caleb's entry into the English world and his efforts as he works and studies to gain entrance into Harvard College. He does, in fact, manage to make the crossing into the English culture, but it comes at a great cost to him. He must leave what is familiar to him and try to adept to a totally foreign way of life. Ms. Brooks is an excellent historical novelist. She uses the language and nuances right from the era that she is writing from. I'm glad that I took the time to read this book. ( )
  Romonko | Jan 18, 2014 |
Beautifully written and thoroughly researched novel based on the story of the first Native American to graduate Harvard in the 1660s. Told through the eyes of Bethia, a minister's daughter, the novel shows two strong-minded individuals struggling against the roles forced upon them by 17th-century society. ( )
  mpbarker | Dec 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 121 (next | show all)
...This is a book for grown-ups written by Geraldine Brooks, who not only respects history, she loves it. So while she sets up a story that's easy to fall into, she doesn't shy away from the realities of those times. And Bethia and Caleb's lives take some unexpected turns. The result is a satisfying but sobering look at the early days of this country. This is a great pick for lovers of historical fiction...
added by Jcambridge | editNPR, Lynn Neary (Jan 1, 2012)
“Caleb’s Crossing” could not be more enlightening and involving. Beautifully written from beginning to end, it reconfirms Geraldine Brooks’s reputation as one of our most supple and insightful ­novelists.
While no masterpiece, this work nevertheless contributes in good measure to the current and very welcome revitalization of the historical novel.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 2011)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Geraldine Brooksprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ehle, JenniferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Bizuayehu, who also made a crossing
First words
He is coming on the Lord's Day.
So it is, out here on this island, where we dwell with our faces to the sea and our backs to the wilderness. Like Adam's family after the fall, we have all things to do. We must be fettler, baker, apothecary, grave digger. Whatever the task, we must do it, or else do without.
On a day so Godsent, your mind is untroubled, the entire world seems well. You gird for tragedy on a different sort of day--a day of bleak gray sky, blowing mists and bitter, howling winds. You pray to avert ill fate on such a day. This I know.
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Book description
When Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks came to live on Martha's Vineyard in 2006, she ran across a map by the island's native Wampanoag people that marked the birthplace of Caleb, first Native American to graduate of Harvard College--in 1665. Her curiosity piqued, she unearthed and fleshed out his thin history, immersing herself in the records of his tribe, of the white families that settled the island in the 1640s, and 17th-century Harvard. In Caleb's Crossing, Brooks offers a compelling answer to the riddle of how--in an era that considered him an intellectually impaired savage--he left the island to compete with the sons of the Puritanical elite. She relates his story through the impassioned voice of the daughter of the island's Calvinist minister, a brilliant young woman who aches for the education her father wastes on her dull brother. Bethia Mayfield meets Caleb at twelve, and their mutual affinity for nature and knowledge evolves into a clandestine, lifelong bond. Bethia's father soon realizes Caleb's genius for letters and prepares him for study at Harvard, while Bethia travels to Cambridge under much less auspicious circumstances. This window on early academia fascinates, but the book breathes most thrillingly in the island's salt-stung air, and in the end, its questions of the power and cost of knowledge resound most profoundly not in Harvard's halls, but in the fire of a Wampanoag medicine man.
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Once again, the author takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, she has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure. The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb's crossing of cultures. Like the author's beloved narrator Anna, in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart.… (more)

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