Friday, July 20, 2012

Books: Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing
By Geraldine Brooks
Copyright 2011
318 pages

Geraldine Brooks has become one of my favorite writers. Her work is erudite yet accessible. It leaves me thinking. I can't give higher praise for a book.

Caleb's Crossing is no exception. Brooks takes her penchant for historical detail and uses it to great effect here.

Bethia Mayfield is an intelligent young woman. She lives at Martha's Vineyard in the 1660s. Her father is a Puritan minister who is trying to convert the natives on the island.

He ceases her education when she is about nine years old, but she has a keen wit and she listens in on her brother's lessons. When she is 12, she meets a young man she calls Caleb, the son of one of the local chieftains. They become friends and as she watches him honor the earth and the world around him she begins to question her religion.

Caleb soon abandons his native ways, though, and comes to live with Bethia's family so that her father can teach him. Caleb, another native boy named Joel, and her brother, Makespeace, are to go to Harvard the following year.

After her father dies unexpectedly, Bethia's grandfather indentures her to a prep school to pay for her brother's schooling. There she toils in the kitchen. She catches the eye of the school master, though, who discovers her quick mind. He enjoys talking to her and eventually introduces her to his son.

Caleb becomes the first native American to graduate from Harvard. This is the truth of the story, the facts around which Brooks has created her novel. Bethia is all fiction, but Caleb's historic rise as a scholar is not.

This book left me thinking about many things - how we treat one another, how far societal thinking has come with regard to women - how lucky I am that I have the life I lead now.

Brooks won a Pulitzer for March, another of her books that I read. This one is no less worthy of the prize, in my estimation.

I highly recommend this author.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Anita. I've never read any of her books, but this one sounds like a good place to start. I'll look for it next time I go to the library.

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  2. Maybe I need to give her another look. She lost me toward the end of Year of Wonder when she had the pregnant main character gallop a horse bareback down a steep hill while carrying an infant and luggage. If she knew so little about horses, what else didn't she know? I loved that book up to the impossible horse scene, though.

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