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.
Now that I have started reading a more diverse selection of books I am beginning to be able to say what i do and do not like in a book.
Brooks tells this story from Bethia Mayfields point of view, normally I love a first person point of view, but this one isn't quite like that. It is written in a diary format, there is very little action and hardly any dialogue which to me makes for a very dry read.
It takes place on what is now called Martha's Vineyard. 7 Miles of land cut off from Massachusetts. It was hard for me to imagine an entire tribe of Wampanoag and a village of puritans sharing this small space. And I wonder if many of the things in the book would have actually happened, after all Brooks is writing through the eyes and experiences of a modern day woman.
The book deals with many moral issues. In the 1600's morality was something constantly thought of especially by a Calvinist priests daughter. What I did like is that the way the moral issues were handled made them relevant to a modern struggle with morality. The best example is when Makepeace, Bethia's older brother makes a decision that Bethia knows is not moral. She goes along with him anyway (I'm chalking that one up to the fact that it is 1600's and women have zero rights) but in her mind dwells on it for days.
The other main issue that I saw was how Bethia and Caleb struggle to coexist in their changing world. Bethia wants to learn more than anything but she is a woman and not allowed to and Caleb wants to find a way to live peacefully with the puritans. Their very relationship also comes under question, is it a brother sister relationship or could there have been more?
I have read and loved a Geraldine Brooks book, Year of Wonders
However when I got to the end of Year of Wonders there was an Epilogue that just wasn't necessary. I felt Brooks did the same thing with Caleb's Crossing. The final chapter is set way forward in time instead of ending after Caleb's graduation. It left me feeling as if the previous pages/story wasn't as significant as the author or Bethia wanted me to feel like it should be.
That being said, the title is all wrong. There really isn't anything in the book about Caleb's Crossing. It is all about the journey Bethia takes. Caleb is a part of her life but you really don't get a good sense of him at all, some of the other characters, like her grandfather and her brother are much stronger.
To finish I will say that Geraldine Brooks is a hit and miss author for me. I tried to read March
and just couldn't get into it. But as I said about I loved Year of Wonders. Caleb's Crossing is going to go on my list of, read it because it was a book club book but that's all.
It did provide a great discussion though!
Now onto my next book club book and maybe a few holiday books too.