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Caleb's Crossing

by Geraldine Brooks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,3671923,969 (3.83)250
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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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Like Caleb's Crossing, The Widow's War is set in a beautifully described seaside village in colonial Massachusetts. With crisp language with a light archaic feel, both novels evoke the plight of a woman struggling to achieve more than society grants her.… (more)
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» See also 250 mentions

English (190)  Italian (1)  All languages (191)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
I listened to this in audiobook format.

This novel is about the early inhabitants of Martha's Vineyard (both English and Indian) and centers around the historical figure, Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Indian to graduate from Harvard University in the 17th century. The narrator is a minister's daughter and her life as a woman who yearns for education is also central to the novel. The entire first person narration is done in Puritan dialect which is fascinating and surprisingly easy to follow. The story was lovely, full of losses and love, history and beauty, racism, sexism, but also empathy and humanity. Highly recommended. ( )
  technodiabla | Jun 24, 2024 |
3.5 ⭐️’s for me on this one. I listened to it and enjoyed it, but found myself fully wrapped up in the story rather than truly taking in the historical context. The narrator was the cleanest speaker I have ever heard; pronunciation and clarity top notch and also able to voice the other characters and other languages beautifully. This is the first book I’ve read by Geraldine Brooks. I am interested in trying another, and will hold out my opinion of the author until then! ( )
  snewell2 | Jun 24, 2024 |
Historical fiction account of the Puritan families who settle in the American colonies from 1600s. The town of Grand Harbour located on Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge Massachusetts form the setting. Berthia Mayfield is the narrator. Her father is the local preacher whose mission is to convert the native people to Christianity. Berthia is a smart, independent young women provides her widowed father and brother with
all domestic services. She absorbs all of her father’s teachings and also learns the language of the indigenous population when she befriends the chief’s son Caleb. Caleb is a gifted scholar and with his friend Joel are chosen to attend Harvard. Their success demonstrates that the native population, given a chance can attain intellectual success when given the right tools
This is the struggle between the old and new world, racism, sexism and scholarly pursuits.
The author often uses old English terms which I found interesting as I was forced to use a dictionary to decipher the meaning. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Feb 1, 2024 |
Geraldine does lovely work of immersing you into the time and setting. I was a little disappointed that it was not written from Caleb's point of view considering that is the focus of the book summary. It makes sense, though, considering the story is based on Caleb's life but otherwise fictional. ( )
  rosenmemily | Jan 7, 2024 |
This incredible story, so enhanced by narrator Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice), is set in Martha's Vineyard in the 1660s amid the conflicts between colonial settlers and the native tribespeople. Bethia Mayfield, the teenage daughter of a charismatic religious leader, meets Caleb, a Wampanoag of her age, and she shares her devotion to Christ with him, and he, the natural wonders of the island, with her. As Caleb breaks their friendship to embark on his vision quest, Bethia continues yearning to be acknowledged as a scholar by her family and her community, an impossibility due to biblical law and to the narrow, confined nature of the lives of women in this new (old) world. Tragedies befall the Mayfield family, and both Caleb and Bethia find themselves in Cambridge, at Harvard College, where she is a scullery maid who eavesdrops on the teachings of the Harvard president, and he is one of two native students, the first to attend. Their life stories, narrated by Bethia, are remarkable, and the resolutions are both heartbreaking and life-affirming. This novel is a special pleasure for Massachusetts readers and for those with a passion for early American and native histories. ( )
  froxgirl | Sep 19, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (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 editionscalculated
Ehle, JenniferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Bizuayehu, who also made a crossing
First words
He is coming on the Lord's Day.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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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