Thursday, April 14, 2011

CALEB'S CROSSING by Geraldine Brooks

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I have always felt that Geraldine Brooks is a truly gifted writer but I always have mixed feelings about her books.  I really liked YEAR OF WONDERS.  I hated MARCH.  I loved loved loved PEOPLE OF THE BOOK.  So, I approached CALEB'S CROSSING with a little trepidation.

Brooks has a real gift in making history come alive in her fiction.  In CALEB'S CROSSING, Brooks fictionalizes the life of first Native American to graduate from Harvard. There is very little in the historical record on Caleb but Brooks manages to flesh out a compelling tale told from the perspective of a young woman named Bethia Mayfield who befriends Caleb and becomes like a sister to him.  Using Bethia's point of view was genius as it allowed Brooks to delve into the roles of women in the late 1600's.  We see not only Caleb's story but that of a young woman who desires nothing more than to be educated in her own right. Bethia observes as her minister father attempts to convert the Wampanoag while he is ignorant of his daughter's friendship with Caleb and fluency in the native tongue.  Caleb becomes a pet project of Bethia's father as the minister tutors him in preparation for entry into Harvard.  A year later, Bethia finds herself in Cambridge as an indentured servant where she witnesses the pressures Caleb feels in trying to straddle the gap between his two worlds.

CALEB'S CROSSING is a wonderful book. The juxtaposition between Bethia's experiences and Caleb's makes for a truly compelling story.  I'm not sure the story would have been as effective without Bethia's voice. I was completely absorbed by the tale. I think Brooks did an excellent job of demonstrating the pressures put on individuals who were attempting to bridge cultural and societal gaps.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A wonderful and moving tale of two people trying to find their place in the world and the toll these actions took on them.

1 comment:

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