Caleb's Crossing

( 243 )

Overview

A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March and The Secret Chord, coming from Viking in October 2015

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 ...

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Overview

A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March and The Secret Chord, coming from Viking in October 2015

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Geraldine Brooks is a contemporary Australian novelist, but all her fictions transport us to other places and other times. From her 2001 Discover selection Year of Wonders to his 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning March to her 2008 bestseller People of the Book, each novel created a separate, completely believable microcosm. In Caleb's Crossing, we enter late seventeenth century Massachusetts through the eyes of Bethia Mayfield, the outspoken daughter of a Bay Colony Calvinist minister. With the piqued curiosity of an adolescent, she crosses borders to become friends with the title character, the son of a Wampanoag chieftain. The convergences and the disparities of their lives form the core of this arresting historical novel.

Paul Chaat Smith
Geraldine Brooks, once a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and more recently a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist…writes about early America the same way she wrote about Sarajevo and the Middle East, which is to say very well…[Bethia's] a fabulously engaging narrator…
—The Washington Post
Jane Smiley
The triumph of Caleb's Crossing is that Bethia succeeds as a convincing woman of her time, and also in communicating across centuries of change in circumstance, custom and language. She tells a story that is suspenseful and involving. It is also a story that is tragically recognizable and deeply sad…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.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
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. (May)
Library Journal
In 1965, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck of Martha's Vineyard graduated from Harvard, whose 1650 charter describes its mission as "the education of the English and Indian youth of this country." That much is fact. That Caleb befriended Bethia Mayfield, the free-spirited daughter of the island's preacher, is of course fiction—but it's luscious fiction in the capable hands of Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks (March). As one might expect from Brooks, Bethia is a keen and rebellious lass, indignant that she should be kept from book learning when her slower brother gets the benefit of an education. She first encounters Caleb in the woods, learning his language and ways while stoutly arguing her Christian beliefs; later, Bethia's zealous father brings Caleb into the household to convert him. And so begins Caleb's crossing, first from Native to English Colonial culture and then from the island to Cambridge, where he studies at a preparatory school before entering Harvard. Bethia ends up at the school, too—but as an indentured servant. VERDICT Writing in Bethia's voice, Brooks offers a lyric and elevated narrative that effectively replicates the language of the era; she takes on the obvious issues of white arrogance, cultural difference, and the debased role of women without settling into jeremiad. The result is sweet and aching. Highly recommended. [Prepub Alert, 11/15/10.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews

The NBA-winning Australian-born, now New England author (People of the Book, 2008,etc.) moves ever deeper into the American past.

Her fourth novel's announced subject is the eponymous Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a member of the Wampanoag Indian tribe that inhabits Massachusetts's Great Harbor (a part of Martha's Vineyard), and the first Native American who will graduate from Harvard College (in 1665). Even as a boy, Caleb is a paragon of sharp intelligence, proud bearing and manly charm, as we learn from the somewhat breathless testimony of Bethia Mayfield, who grows up in Great Harbor where her father, a compassionate and unprejudiced preacher, oversees friendly relations between white settlers and the placid Wampanoag. The story Bethia unfolds is a compelling one, focused primarily on her own experiences as an indentured servant to a schoolmaster who prepares promising students for Harvard; a tense relationship with her priggish, inflexible elder brother Makepeace; and her emotional bond of friendship with the occasionally distant and suspicious Caleb, who, in this novel's most serious misstep, isn't really the subject of his own story. Fascinating period details and a steadily expanding plot, which eventually encompasses King Philip's War, inevitable tensions between Puritan whites and upwardly mobile "salvages," as well as the compromises unavoidably ahead for Bethia, help to modulate a narrative voice that sometimes teeters too uncomfortably close to romantic cliché. Both Bethia, whose womanhood precludes her right to seek formal education, and the stoical Caleb are very nearly too good to be true. However, Brooks' knowledgeable command of the energies and conflicts of the period, and particularly her descriptions of the reverence for learning that animates the little world of Harvard and attracts her characters' keenest longings, carries a persuasive and quite moving emotional charge.

While no masterpiece, this work nevertheless contributes in good measure to the current and very welcome revitalization of the historical novel.

The Barnes & Noble Review

"Who are we, really? Are our souls shaped, our fates written in full by God, before we draw our first breath? Do we make ourselves, by the choices we our selves make? Or are we clay merely, that is molded and pushed into the shape that our betters propose for us?"

These are pressing concerns for the spirited young heroine of Geraldine Brooks's absorbing new historical novel, Caleb's Crossing. Bethia Mayfield's forbidden friendship with Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a member of the Wôpanâak tribe of Martha's Vineyard, whom she first meets as a 12-year-old sent to dig clams for her family's supper, changes both their lives. While Caleb teaches Bethia to walk silently through woods without leaving a trail and to name and gather the island's wild bounty, she teaches him to read and speak English. Over time, she helps this "half-naked, sassafras-scented heathen anointed with raccoon grease" make the crossing between his native traditions and her English Christian culture to become the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College, in 1665.

While Caleb is loosely based on an actual person, born around 1646, Brooks's narrator, Bethia Mayfield, is a wholly fictional creation. With this headstrong, intelligent heroine who chafes against the constrained status of women imposed upon her by her patriarchal minister father and magistrate grandfather, Brooks returns to several pet themes prominently featured in her last two books -- Pulitzer Prize-winning March (2005) and People of the Book (2007): the sexism, racial prejudices, religious strictures, and pedagogical practices of earlier eras. In Brooks's novels, a high value is placed on books and scholarship.

Bethia, like Brooks's other sympathetic young heroines, leans toward modern, proto-feminist sensibilities -- which makes it easy for contemporary readers to empathize and identify with her struggles. How enraging that her brother Makepeace, a poor, small-minded student, gets to study Latin and Greek, which she can only pick up by eavesdropping while slaving over his dirty linens and daily bread! How frustrating that "silence was a woman's sole safe harbor." The effect, at times, has the simple forcefulness of children's literature aimed at stirring a sense of righteous indignation in order to deliver reverberating, historically derived moral lessons. (Kathryn Stockett's The Help similarly manipulates our emotions by playing our enlightened, liberal sensibilities about race and domestic help against nasty attitudes from the not-so-distant past.)

Born and raised in Australia, Brooks sets her books in places she knows firsthand: parts of March unfold near her Virginia residence, and parts of People of the Book are set in Bosnia, where she worked as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. Caleb's Crossing is rooted in Martha's Vineyard, Brooks's current home -- and her love for the island comes through in lush descriptions of its natural beauty: "This morning, light lapped the water as if God had spilt a goblet of molten gold upon a ground of darkest velvet," she writes.

The effectiveness of historical fiction depends to a great extent on voice and details, and Brooks again proves her mastery of both. Bethia's narrative is steeped in a world where misfortunes -- including the untimely deaths of several siblings and her parents -- are thought to be just punishment by a vengeful God for sins that include "thirsting for forbidden knowledge" and despair: "Break God's laws and suffer ye his wrath. Well, and so I do. The Lord lays his hand sore upon me, as I bend under the toil I now have -- mother's and mine, both. The tasks stretch out from the gray slough before dawn to the guttered taper of night," 15-year-old Bethia writes.

Brooks captures both the cadences and attitudes of English colonists with vocabulary to match: "square cap" for scholar, "salvage" for savage, and "sennight" for week. An unmarried pregnant woman is "bastard-bellied," "harlotized," and "forwhored." In contrast with her beloved home in bright and airy Great Harbor -- now called Edgartown -- Bethia describes the "smear and stench of English industry" in the "unlovely town" of Cambridge, where she is indentured as a servant in exchange for her brother's tuition at Master Corbett's Latin preparatory school: "cold and clemmed, and all is drudgery."

The story of Caleb's experiences at Harvard is less familiar than Bethia's personal saga of a young woman making her way in the world against cultural obstacles. Grounded in research -- including a "hair-tearingly aggravating" early history of the college replete with "reflexive racism" -- Brooks's animation of this little-known facet of American history underscores why one reads historical fiction. In an afterword, the author helpfully sets the record straight "by distinguishing scant fact from rampant invention." She also notes that, while other Native Americans from Martha's Vineyard have completed graduate degrees at Harvard since 1665, it is only this spring that the first Wôpanâak from the island since Caleb is due to receive an undergraduate degree there -- and a woman, no less. Progress!

--Heller McAlpin




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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143121077
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 80,998
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Marchand the international bestsellers Caleb’s CrossingPeople of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her most recent novel, Caleb’s Crossing, was the winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Christianity TodayBook Award, and was a finalist for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz.

Biography

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues.

In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master's program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.

Her first novel, Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague was an international bestseller. In 2006, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for March, a story that imagines the Civil War experiences of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women. She has also written nonfiction, including Foreign Correspondence, an award-winning memoir about her search for the international penpals who enriched her childhood.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Living in the isolated Puritan settlement of Great Harbor on Martha's Vineyard, Bethia Mayfield, the bright young daughter of the local minister, balances her strict religion with a passionate love of nature and a growing curiosity about the culture of the Wampanoag tribe that populates the island. When Bethia secretly strikes up a friendship with a young Wampanoag named Caleb, she unknowingly begins a journey that will shape her life. Intelligent, independent, and kind, Bethia is the narrator and the heart of Geraldine Brooks's stunning new novel, Caleb's Crossing, the story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, who in 1665 became the very first Native American to graduate from Harvard.

Torn between her commitment to her religion and her family and her longing for freedom and intellectual fulfillment, Bethia is a young woman built of contradictory desires. With Caleb, she finds an escape from her stern and pious community in which women are expected to be silent and subservient, the community that denies Bethia an education simply because of her gender. But for all the freedom that Caleb inspires in her, he struggles to understand her dogged sense of duty and deference. Even as he chooses to adopt her religion, he encourages her to rebel and questions the obedience at the root of her faith.

Their relationship is soon upended as Caleb comes to live with Bethia's family so that he can be groomed to enter a preparatory school in Cambridge along with her elder brother, Makepeace. Living under the same roof yet forced to keep their earlier friendship hidden, Bethia watches Caleb blossom under the tutelage she so craves. When a tragedy befalls the Mayfield family, Makepeace's hope for entering Harvard suddenly rests on Bethia's shoulders, demanding that she sacrifice her pride and her freedom to make his education possible. The shifting boundaries of Bethia's complex and profound relationship with Caleb change with their arrival together in Cambridge; as he enters school, Bethia becomes an indentured servant, and while their lives move in markedly different directions, their friendship endures.

Caleb's Crossing follows Bethia and Caleb from Grand Harbor to Cambridge and beyond, charting not only their crossing of the stretch of ocean between island and mainland but of the vast—and sometimes unbridgeable—expanse between Native American and white settler, between pagan and Christian, and between male and female. Brooks has built a world of emotion, struggle, and natural beauty in which the balance between the traditions of the past and the potential of the future are captured in the lives of two young friends.
 

ABOUT GERALDINE BROOKS

Geraldine Brooks is the author of six books, including the novel Year of Wonders and the nonfiction workNine Parts of Desire; her second novel, March, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006. Earlier in her career, Brooks was a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and was stationed in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. Born in Australia, she currently divides her time between Martha's Vineyard and Sydney.
 

A CONVERSATION WITH GERALDINE BROOKS

Q. In writing a historical novel such as Caleb's Crossing, what is the balance between detective work and pure imagination? Could you briefly describe your research and writing process?

I like to follow the line of fact as far as it leads, so I do a vast amount of research. But I always make sure that the story drives it, which means I wait for the narrative to tell me what it is I need to know. So I write for a while, then go to archives or to interview experts, then I come back and incorporate what I have learned into the fiction. I don't always follow the facts—sometimes the story needs to veer away from them for a while. And that's why I always include an afterword, to set out the truth as far it is known and to show where my novel has deviated from it.

Q. Your first novel, Year of Wonders, also takes place in the seventeenth century. What is it about this time period you find so inspiring? Did any of the information you gained researching that novel help your work on Caleb's Crossing?

It is a rich period to me because the modern mind is emerging from the medieval mind, and you can sense the struggle. When you read some of the writings of people who lived in the mid-seventeenth century, they are recognizable—you understand their predicaments, you get their jokes. Yet at other times you encounter minds formed by a worldview quite alien to our own. It's the time Newton is shaping modern scientific thought, and yet witches are still being burned at the stake. I was familiar with all this from Year of Wonders. Anna Frith's small community was largely puritan—the kind of people who might have taken ship for the new England colonies if they'd had the means.

Q. The relationship between the white settlers and Native American population has always been a difficult one, and the creation of the Massachusetts colony still has political ramifications today. As someone who didn't grow up in the United States, what is your relationship to these events? Are there comparable events in Australian history?

Australia too has a brutal history of dispossession of its Aboriginal inhabitants. But as I was researching the book, I was astonished to discover that I have a direct ancestor who almost certainly knew Caleb. My some-number-of-greats grandfather was Ephriam Cutter, a glazier in Cambridge in the 1660s. His sister was the wife of Elijah Corlett, the schoolmaster who prepared Caleb for Harvard. So I had a closer relationship to these events than I had ever imagined.

Q. As you note in the afterword, the facts of Caleb's life are barely known. What was it about his story that made you think it had the potential to be a novel?

The questions: Who was this remarkable young scholar? How did he get to Harvard? What was Harvard like in the 1660s? And on, and on. As soon as I learned of Caleb, I was intrigued, and I found that I couldn't stop thinking about him and speculating on what his experience might have been.

Q. Both Caleb and Bethia are placed in set roles by society because of his race and because of her gender. In looking at their respective journeys in the novel, would it be fair to say that Caleb's struggle is to exist between two worlds while Bethia's struggle is to try to flourish within one?

Yes, I think that is a very apt way to describe it.

Q. As a narrator, Bethia creates a warm and intimate relationship with the reader, despite the formal structure and vocabulary of her seventeenth-century English. How were you able to develop such a unique and historically accurate voice without compromising the reader's ability to relate to her?

It took a long while to feel assured about her voice because there are no female diaries extant from that period to draw upon, to prime the pump, as it were. But in the end, after reading what I could in verbatim court records, letters, wills, and other documents, she did begin to speak to me. After that it's a kind of channeling that goes on. I just hear the voice very clearly.

Q. Bethia mentions being inspired by the accomplishments of the poet Anne Bradstreet. This is not a name most readers might recognize. Were you familiar with her work prior to writing the novel?

Yes, I was because I love poetry and read it voraciously. She is North America's first published poet, after all. She deserves to be celebrated!

Q. While we get hints from Bethia as to what she's like in her old age, how do you see the rest of her life progressing after the events of the novel? What could Caleb have accomplished had his story not ended so early?

I think I have let Bethia speak for me on this. He might have had an immense impact. The fact that Thomas Danforth, who was an esteemed jurist and political leader, had charge of him at the time of his death is highly significant. Danforth would not have been involved unless Caleb was considered a promising young man. And Caleb's own achievements as a scholar support that view.

Q. As a writer, your work includes both fiction and nonfiction, covering seventeenth-century America to modern life in the Middle East. As a reader, are your interests as broad or do your tastes remain more constant? What is your favorite book?

At this moment in my life I would have to say Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I do read widely, including children's and young adult literature, which I read to and with my sons. I admire these books a great deal because they understand the virtues of great plotting and the fundamental importance of story.

Q. What are the different emotional costs and rewards that come with writing fiction as opposed to journalism? Do you feel that your strengths as a journalist are the same as your strengths as a novelist?

To be quite frank I think my greatest strength as a journalist was being able to talk my way into tough situations and put up with uncomfortable conditions for weeks on end. If you could actually show up—be there for the coup or the firefight or the disaster—that was 90 percent of it. The events were so dramatic, the human predicaments so poignant and tragic, it didn't actually require much skill to write about them.

Q. What is your next project?

Another historical novel. And that's all I have to say about it at this point.
 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • In discussing the purchase of the island from the Wampanoag, Bethia's father says, "some now say that [the sonquem] did not fully understand that we meant to keep the land from them forever. Be that as it may, what's done is done and it was done lawfully" (p. 9). Do you agree with his opinion?
  • With that in mind, examine Caleb's view of the settlers on p. 143 – 144. Why does he say that the sound of their "boots, boots, and more boots" (p. 143) moved him to cross cultures and adopt Christianity? Contrast this with Tequamuck's reaction to the settlers' arrival (p. 295). Placed in their situation, what would you have felt?
  • Look at Bethia's discussion of the question "Who are we?" at the top of p. 57. Of the options that she offers, which seems most true to you? Are there other options you would add to her list?
  • On p. 285, Joseph Dudley discusses the philosophical question of the Golden Mean, which suggests that the ideal behavior is the middle point between extremes. But he then goes on to argue against this belief, stating that, in fact, there is no middle point between extremes such as "good and evil, truth and falsehood." Which perspective do you agree with?
  • Compared with those in her community, Bethia is remarkably unprejudiced in her view of the Wampanoag. Did you grow up surrounded by prejudices you disagreed with? How did this affect you? Conversely, did you have prejudices in your youth that you've since overcome?
  • Bethia sees her mother's silence as a great strength and tool in dealing with society, particularly as a woman in a male-dominated culture. However, while Bethia repeatedly tries to emulate this behavior, she's often overcome by her own passionate opinions. Find an example where Bethia's boldness in stating her mind is a good thing, and an example where it brings her trouble. Have you ever wished you had spoken when instead you stayed quiet—or wished you had stayed quiet instead of having spoken your mind?
  • The Wampanoag and the Puritans have very different views on raising children. Describe the differences you see between the two and which method you believe is healthier. Are Caleb and Bethia the typical product of their respective societies?
  • Bethia acknowledges that her own religion could seem as crazy to Caleb as his does to her: "Of course, I thought it all outlandish. But… it came to me that our story of a burning bush and a parted sea might also seem fabulous, to one not raised up knowing it was true" (p. 35). In the end, Caleb does come to accept Bethia's religion, and she develops a kinder attitude toward him. Have you or anyone you know ever converted religions? Have you grown interested in or accepting of religions or practices that initially struck you as strange or foreign?
  • When visiting Italy, Bethia writes of feeling overwhelmed by how different it was from her own home. Have you ever had a similar experience when traveling somewhere new? Did your travels make you see your own home in a new light? Does Bethia's visit to Italy change her beliefs or behavior?
  • Unlike Bethia, her son has no interest in traveling to older countries like Italy, saying that "everything there is done and built and finished. I like it here, where we can make and do for ourselves" (p. 274). Is this sense of independence and potential still true of the United States today?
  • Both Bethia and Caleb struggle against the limits and expectations placed on them by society. How are their experiences similar? How are they different? Who faces the greater challenge?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 243 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 243 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    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 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

    36 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    DEEPLY MOVING!

    CALEB'S CROSSING is an emotionally engaging and deeply moving work, a wonderful and moving story of two people trying to find their place in the world and the long road to reach their goal.
    Opening in 1660, in Martha's Vineyard, Caleb was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, the author paints a vivid portrait of life in Puritan New England. This story is a universal theme of jealousy, of disillusioned passion, of religious disagreements, and of un-reached potential. This one makes you grateful to have been born in this era!

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Rich and luminous

    In writing Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks took a sliver of history, some notations on a page, and gave them flesh. Brooks gives us a view of history, opens it to us so that the reader can feel, when she looks up from the last page, as though she has become someone else. Maybe a Puritan in the seventeenth century. Or a member of the Wampanoag tribe that is rocked under the heft of the colonists that landed on it.

    Brooks does an excellent job of portraying the sorrow and hardships that both people faced in the time of colonization. She shows the difficulties of the colonists with acute vision and sympathy, while giving weight to their clumsiness and grave mistakes. She shows the beauty and simplicity of the Wampanoag way of life. In her words we feel the confusion of two peoples trying to live together, and all the misunderstanding and sorrow that ensues.

    Brooks skillfully juxtaposes the hardness of the Puritan brand of spirituality, and the softness of the people themselves. One gets the sense, in Bethia's father, that he is deeply loving and kind, while still maintaining a kind of cultural disfavor toward something like the education of his daughter.

    For me the high points of the novel existed within the description of the island. I was wrapped up in the beauty of Martha's Vineyard before it had been built up, civilized. Phrases like this were abundant. "...hot, sun scoured afternoons when the shore curved away in its glistening arc toward the distant bluffs." I am there.

    I loved watching as Caleb taught Bethia his knowledge of the island, how to be at ease in the place that she lived. And the relationship between Caleb and Bethia was the best aspect of the book. In Bethia's words, "He was, quite simply, my dearest friend."

    I had difficulty in the matter of Bethia's own crossing. I believed in her understanding and friendship with Caleb, in her love of the island and nature, in her attraction to ritual and dance, but certain events left me behind. I wasn't sure that a girl like her would go as far as she went. I won't give a spoiler now. I don't believe that the ideas on religion were entirely unbiased. I believe the author meant to be, but I think the ideas were delicately flavored away from the ideas of the Puritans, which is perhaps difficult not to do when they cultivated such rigidity as allowed them to punish women by beating them.

    To be friends from two races at that time was a dangerous thing. As Caleb crosses from one world to the other, Bethia questions whether her influence in his life was purely benign. These questions, whether there is possibility of the transfer of ideals from one culture to another, form the framework of the book. The suffering and heartbreak are evident, and in the end I was filled with a keen wish that we could do it all over. Tread with softness and respect, more like Bethia, rather than stomping with boots like the men of the past.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    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 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.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2011

    Highly recommended

    As expected based on the Author's other books, I thoroughly enjoyed Caleb's crossing. The author created vivid pictures in my mind and I had a hard time putting the book down. A very interesting and believable story with many subtle lessons as well.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    A Long Ago World

    Caleb's Crossing should be required reading for every student. Bethia's journey to womanhood took place in the most diffulcult of times for women and female children. Early settlement days. Her courage and bravery in this stifilling environment was so amazing but, I am sure it spoke for many women. Her meeting with Caleb was an awaking for Bethia and for me. Caleb taught us how we should be behaving towards our fellow man. I would recommend this story to all children eight and over.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    Great history book, back in the times when the Pilgrims landed a

    Great history book, back in the times when the Pilgrims landed at Great Harbor and what a beautiful land for Caleb and the change of life for both Caleb and Bethia, English was not spoken as today. At the end with all the education, it end up very sad for Caleb and his friend Joel. Great book of what it must have been back in the 1600.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013

    I liked this book but I did not love it.  

    I liked this book but I did not love it.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Great read

    Caleb's Crossing is a book that sticks with you long after you've finished reading it. The author does an excellent job making a long ago time come alive to the reader. It is thought-provoking and definitely made me grateful for the life I lead now - both as a woman and as an educator.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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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.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    Kalie

    Gtg bb soon

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    Rare find

    This is a winning read for anybody that loves a good mix of fiction & history. Brooks has done her research and developed a beleivable story line of remarkable characters. Enjoyed every word. The book ends with an unpredictable finish to an interesting story.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent historical fiction

    Geraldine Brooks is a master at research of the era she determines to write about.
    The characters are believable and the premise comes through that almost 400 years later
    we still struggle with inequality and prejudices in many areas - geographically and personally. The writing is melodic and beautifully descriptive of island life and the
    environmental surroundings. I learned a lot about education in the 17thc in the colonies.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2013

    I loved this book.

    This is a must read for anyone concerned with the past in the education of the native american people. Its also a good fiction read with strong female input.

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  • Posted June 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I like Caleb's Crossing because I like historical fiction. The c

    I like Caleb's Crossing because I like historical fiction. The characters are great. I like all characters except Bethia's brother Makepeace. He is a bit whiny and selfish. The ending is sad and it made me wonder if we should attempt to make others convert to our ways.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    Enjoyed very much

    Loved the story and the historical writing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    If you like historical fiction then you will love this!

    This author can speak the language of the time period she is writing about and gives you insight and a window into their lives. I love that she takes a known fact and turns it into a good story resulting into learning new things about history. This is now my favorite Geraldine Brooks books.

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  • Posted March 1, 2013

    This was an outstanding Historical fiction book. I loved it and

    This was an outstanding Historical fiction book. I loved it and will seek other books by Geraldine Brooks.

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    Interesting read....

    Some might call this historical fiction. Ms. Brooks gave insights into the early Northeastern settlers and their relationship with the Native Americans. She crafts the story around a juxtaposition of deep-held religious beliefs of the two main characters. In that way, it moved me. On the other hand, was it possible the hero became such a learned man? It certainly is a nice thought.

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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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