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Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Caleb's Crossing (edition 2011)

by Geraldine Brooks

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1,9721293,439 (3.86)152
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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I liked reading about the early history of Martha's Vineyard. I certainly liked it better than either "People of the Book" or "March" but still wonder why Geraldine Brooks won a Pulitzer. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
I liked reading about the early history of Martha's Vineyard. I certainly liked it better than either "People of the Book" or "March" but still wonder why Geraldine Brooks won a Pulitzer. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
I liked reading about the early history of Martha's Vineyard. I certainly liked it better than either "People of the Book" or "March" but still wonder why Geraldine Brooks won a Pulitzer. ( )
  abbeyhar | Jul 23, 2014 |
I enjoyed this, as I do all of Brooks' writing. Although a little slow to start, it was engrossing. A little strange, that while I was reading it, I thought it was great - but once I finished, thinking back on the book, I realized that the characters were not very well-formed. Caleb's character is stronger in the beginning, but once he moves into the Mayfield house there just isn't much there. Definitely a great historical read, especially for Brooks fans (I absolutely love the way she can take a little piece of historical info, and build such wonderful stories around it), but missing that something that her earlier works had. ( )
  bookwormam | Jul 8, 2014 |
That an American Indian, a member of the Wopanaak tribe, graduated from Harvard in 1665, more than a century before American independence, seems amazing today, as it must have seemed then. It becomes even more amazing when you consider that the second member of his tribe to earn a Harvard degree didn't do it until 2011. Beyond that little is actually known about Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, Geraldine Brooks imaginatively fills in the blanks in her 2011 novel "Caleb's Crossing." The title refers literally to his crossing over from the island now known as Martha's Vineyard to the mainland to attend the college and figuratively to his crossing over the wide gap between two cultures.

Brooks tells her story through the eyes of Bethia, the daughter of a Christian missionary to the island Indians, and indeed the novel is more about her than it is about Caleb. The two become secret friends as children and become familiar with each other's language and culture. Each possesses a great intellect and a thirst for knowledge. The irony is that while Caleb is permitted to attend Harvard, Bethia is not because the college admits men only. Yet Bethia finds a way to get a Harvard education anyway, getting a job as a servant that allows her to eavesdrop on college lectures.

There is much here about the negative attitudes of the day toward both Indians and women, and especially Indian women, as we find when an Indian girl in the Harvard community becomes pregnant and Bethia puts her position on the line to save her.

The novel spans many years in its 300 pages, and Bethia is a very old woman when she concludes her story. Caleb, however, died while still a young man, perhaps a victim of the very culture he crossed such a wide divide to join. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Jun 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (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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Geraldine Brooksprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ehle, JenniferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Bizuayehu, who also made a crossing
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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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