Customer Reviews for

Caleb's Crossing

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

36 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

A Special Niche in Outstanding Historical Fiction

The best historical fiction takes historical fact and pulls us in by creating interest in characters of the time period. Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks is one of the most versatile historical fiction writers of today. Her talent lays in takes a slice of history ...
The best historical fiction takes historical fact and pulls us in by creating interest in characters of the time period. Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks is one of the most versatile historical fiction writers of today. Her talent lays in takes a slice of history and creating a world we long to enter. Imaginatively conceived and exquisitely written with compelling characters, Caleb's Crossing will command your attention and demand your respect. 1660. Great Harbor (now Martha's Vineyard), Massachusetts. Bethia Mayfield anticipates the arrival of Caleb, a member of the Wampanoag tribe, to her home for tutoring with her minister father. Unperceived by her family, she and Caleb, who share a love of nature, have learned each other's languages and formed a friendship over the past few years. Her brother and Caleb, the first Native American to do so, enter Cambridge to prepare for studies at Harvard. Bethia feels at a loss when she leaves Martha's Vineyard to become a servant in the headmaster's home. Her love of learning prods her secret vigilance in listening to all the lessons. Integral elements of the remarkable Caleb's Crossing are joy in learning, unexpected death, heartbreaking starvation, and the ever-present bond between Caleb and Bethia despite all hardship and prejudice against their bond. Knowledge equals power in this unique book. Caleb says, "And since it seems that knowledge is no respecter of boundaries, I will take it wheresoever I can.if necessary, I will go into the dark to get it." Intrigued? You will find yourself reading in a leisurely fashion to fully savor the evocative prose. "And then I woke, on my cold pallet in this stranger's kitchen, with ice winds from the cracked window fingering my flesh and a snowflake melting slowly on the fireless hearth." The characters are absorbing. The soulful narrative voice of Bethia has an ethereal quality. She is haunted by guilt, taking upon herself blame for a smallpox outbreak, a death during the delivery of a baby-all because of her secret relationship with Caleb. Caleb yearns to be a Pawaaw, or healer of his people. For him, knowledge respects no boundaries. He glows with appreciation of life, zest for learning, curiosity and love of nature. The release of Caleb's Crossing coincides with an important Harvard University event. This May a degree will be awarded to Tiffany Smalley, the first Martha's Vineyard member of the Wampanoag tribe since Caleb to graduate. An official portrait of Caleb will be painted in commemoration. To what does Caleb cross? Read Caleb's Crossing to find out. In the book, Ms. Brooks highlights this question: What are the effects of attempting to Christianize an already spiritual, established civilization? Her own opinion is not expressed. Instead, she tells Caleb's story with forthrightness and clarity, allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions. I thank Viking for providing a copy. The opinions expressed unbiased and solely that of the reviewer. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont

posted by nyauthoress on May 3, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Imaginative historical novel... but a little flat

This novel is a beautifully written story, and I think it captures the harsh difficulties of 17th century New England. It's particularly effective in describing the fragility of life in the colonial world, the futility of a woman's position in society, and the dominanc...
This novel is a beautifully written story, and I think it captures the harsh difficulties of 17th century New England. It's particularly effective in describing the fragility of life in the colonial world, the futility of a woman's position in society, and the dominance of religious influence. The storyline is compelling, and at times it was quite moving.

But something about this never clicked, and I'm struggling to identify why it didn't. I think the biggest problem is this: Though this book endeavors to tell Caleb's story, it really ends up being about Bethia. Caleb is just too simple... too compartmentalized. Like the "George Washington never told a lie" version of the man. In fact, many of the characters are a little underdeveloped, and this gives the story a kind of breezy feel. Everything is just a bit too convenient, as if characters are drawn out in a way to move a story along... not because they're people with real depth.

To sum up: It's a good novel. But not a great one.

posted by ElectraMagnet on June 26, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    There are so many problems with this novel it is difficult to kn

    There are so many problems with this novel it is difficult to know where to begin. The voices are inconsistent, the characters cartoon and one dimensional, the settings described in tedious wrote language.
    Hooray for my public library that I invested time and not money in this pale frail and stereotypical work. I should have had a tip off that there was not waiting list for the novel. The stereotype of a woman yearning for education, a first nations being underestimated and all the battle between gods is well worn material that needed a fresh treatment here and alas did not get one. Disjointed, and typical, a disappointing but typical Brooks read. She is a writer publishers don't know what to do with - a fair story teller, a fair user of language but not and never will be great. She can be edited into wining a big prize but that is a huge investment. Without that strong editorial hand, this is pop literature suitable for YA audiences. A journalist does not make a novelist - too much telling vs. showing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    ROBIN SLOW BOOK

    This book I would not have bought! There was nothing to grip your teeth into! I did a fast read on it just to get done with it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Not Really Christian Fiction

    I was under the impression that this book focused on the life of Caleb, an Indian 'crossing' into the white man's world ~ instead, the main character is a girl that knows Caleb. It definitely does not focus on the redemption of the LORD Jesus Christ ~ just a mention here and there.

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2011

    A non-starter

    The story is thin-skinned, padded with questionable 17th c. English jargon which becomes ever-so-tiresome, but which at least allows for an historical context to appeal to those who have read the pretext over and over again either as fiction or non.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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