Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

1 Book I Read

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

2 words that describe the book:    American History

settings and/or characters I met:
  • Caleb's Crossing is set in the 1660's on the island now known as Martha's Vineyard, off the south of Cape Cod in New England. 
  • Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck is the young son of a chieftain of the Wampanoag tribe. Destined to be their leader one day his contact with the Puritans and the resulting education he receives makes him increasingly aware of how he can use this knowledge to help his people. 
  • Bethia Mayfield is the daughter of a Calvinist minister, a spirited 12-year-old when the story begins, whose  grandfather founded the Puritan settlement on the island to get away from John Winthrop's rule. Bethia's father's mission is to convert the Native Americans to Christianity but in a way that fosters good relationships and peaceable living between the two peoples. When she meets Caleb they form a friendship from which each will learn about the customs and beliefs of the other's culture.
things I liked/disliked about the book:
  • I'm a huge fan of Geraldine Brooks and I love her ability to take a small and obscure fragment of history and write a book from it. Little is known about Caleb except he was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard but the author creates a very credible portrayal of a young man torn between two worlds and struggling to overcome the conflict that causes. 
  • The story is told by Bethia who is herself 'crossing' - from a child running free on the island to a young woman confronting the restrictions of her time and her religions. Although she has greater intelligence than her brother, can speak and read Greek and Hebrew and longs for education, Bethia's role-to-be in life is clearly defined as a wife and mother only. 
  • I really enjoyed the format - the story being told through Bethia's confessional journal with many archaic words, and turns of phrase that makes it feel very authentic. 
  •  The historical background is wonderful - the beauty of the island is vividly described, the contrasting lifestyles and beliefs of the Wampanoag and the Puritans and the very interesting early history of Harvard about which I knew nothing made fascinating reading.
5 Stars or less for my rating:..........4.5 Stars for a fine historical novel . Long awaited I only wish it had been longer.

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  1. I enjoyed your review. It's on my tbr list so I know someday I'll read it. Glad you liked it!

  2. I am looking forward to reading this when I get to it. I went to hear Geraldine Brooks talk a while ago and found the whole premise to be very interesting!

  3. I have this book and cannot wait to read it! I'm a fan of Geraldine Brooks as well - loved People of the Book and A Year of Wonders.