Caleb's Crossing

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Fourth Estate, 2011 - Biographical fiction - 369 pages
111 Reviews
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Once again, Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Geraldine Brooks takes an unlikely shard of little-known history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young Indian named Caleb from the island of Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminously written, page turning tale of love and faith, magic and adventure. The narrator of Caleb's Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny island settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Possessed of a restless spirit and a quick and curious mind, Bethia yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away from the strictures of English society to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At the age of twelve, she encounters the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative, secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's father, Great Harbor's well-meaning and charismatic minister, tries to convert the Wampanoag to his own strict Calvinism, awakening the wrath of the pawaaws, against whose shamanistic magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his pet projects becomes the education of Caleb. A year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb's intellectual and spiritual crossing of cultures, with all its risks and losses, triumphs and turmoil. Like Brooks's beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wild coasts of Martha's Vineyard, the drafty lecture rooms of early Harvard and the intimate spaces of the human heart.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jmchshannon - LibraryThing

True to form, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks is a well-written glimpse into the hardships of the past. Moreover, it involves a story that does not get much exposure but one that reflects today’s ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - charlie68 - LibraryThing

A plot that leads where you might not expect. The theme of noble savage and perfidious white man is a little shop worn, but this tale rises above it. Read full review

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About the author (2011)

Geraldine Brooks is the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, "Nine Parts of Desire" and "Foreign Correspondence." A former war correspondent, her writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

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