Friday, November 18, 2011

Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's CrossingCaleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I loved Brooks' People of the Book, so I was excited to read her latest novel. Brooks seems to focus her novels on different places and periods in history, and for this book she takes on Martha's Vineyard in the 1600s. Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk was the first Native American to attend Harvard, and this book is a work of historical fiction built around his existence.

Bethia Mayfield is the daughter of a Puritan minister. Growing up on the untamed landscape of the Massachusetts coast, Bethia secretly befriends Caleb, a Wampanoag Indian. After Bethia's father tries to convert the tribe, Caleb comes to live with Bethia where he is tutored by her father. Eventually, Caleb is accepted into Harvard. Due to tragedies in Bethia's life, she is an indentured servant in Cambridge where she can watch Caleb's intellectual journey.

I think this book is more about Bethia's "crossing" than Caleb's. She has a certain attitude that seems somewhat inconsistent with the time and place, but makes her more relate-able to modern readers. I found this book slow and depressing, but I did like some of the writing. I particularly liked this passage about Bethia's love of her island:
"I would be cradled by the known world of kine and crop, the heaviness of each day's familiar chores lightened by love of the very place in which I did perform them. I knew that life; I knew my place in it. If I threw my thoughts forward I could see myself at every age."
Ultimately, it may have been a matter of bad timing for me, but too many people died in this book for me to be happy.

Also reviewed by: Book NutThe Boston Bibliophile ~ Your link here?
Source: GoodReads BookSwap


Melissa said...

For me, it's not so much that a lot of people die as it was the last section just kind of killed the book for me.

I agree, though: it's more about Bethia than Caleb.

bermudaonion said...

I'm sorry this one didn't work for you.

Corinne said...

Darn! Sorry that it was a disappointment - I really loved People of the Book as well.