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Caleb's Crossing

Brooks, Geraldine (Book - 2011)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Caleb's Crossing
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Once again, the author takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, she has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure. The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, 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 minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and 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 crossing of cultures. Like the author's beloved narrator Anna, in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart.
Authors: Brooks, Geraldine
Title: Caleb's crossing
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2011
Characteristics: ix, 306 p. :,map ;,24 cm
Statement of Responsibility: Geraldine Brooks
Summary: Once again, the author takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, she has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure. The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, 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 minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and 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 crossing of cultures. Like the author's beloved narrator Anna, in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart.
ISBN: 9780670021048
0670021040
Branch Call Number: FICTION BROOKS 2011
Subject Headings: Cheeshahteaumuck, Caleb, approximately 1646-1666 Fiction Wampanoag Indians Massachusetts Martha's Vineyard Fiction Indian college graduates Fiction Indian scholars United States Fiction
Genre/Form: Biographical fiction
Historical fiction
Topical Term: Wampanoag Indians
Indian college graduates
Indian scholars
LCCN: 2010051207
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Join the discussion on Nov. 18, 2014. In the 1660s, Caleb became the first Native American to graduate Harvard. Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to life in a tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.

Join the discussion on March 24, 2015. In the 1660s, Caleb became the first Native American to graduate Harvard. Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to life in a tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.

Join the discussion on April 15, 2015. In the 1660s, Caleb became the first Native American to graduate Harvard. Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to life in a tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.

Once again, the amazing Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, she has created a luminous tale of love and ... Read More »

This is a wonderful historical novel based on the true story of a Wampanoag indian who graduated from Harvard in 1665.


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Sep 02, 2014
  • debjani71 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I have read two other books of Geraldine brook's and had enjoyed reading " People of the book".The author always finds a historical thread and creates a story around it .

This novel reminded me of "Avtar", "Dances with wolves", "The scarlet letter".

There are number of characters which remained under developed like Joel, Anne, Makepeace.

The relationship between Bethia and Caleb suggested that they were more than friends. There were partial admission and denials, yet she settled down with Samuel. Was it her referent power over Caleb that she was only interested ?

The end was very conclusive. I would have preferred a subtle ending or if left open ended.

One question crosses my mind- Is it possible to transfer ideals from one culture to another ?

Jul 25, 2013
  • Bjreader rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

In her novel, Geraldine Brooks gives us a time period and history of New England, portrayed through the Puritan settlers and native american subjects. For me the ending brought the whole story together and was well-done.

Jul 19, 2013
  • tkaeu rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

An ABSOLUTE favorite! After listening to the audiobook, I hope to someday add this book to my own collection. This was my first "read" by Geraldine Brooks. To me, her writing style was refreshing and captivating. Differing from other opinion's in the comment section, I was impressed and pleased with Jennifer Ehle's reading of Caleb's Crossing. From the first chapter, I was drawn in and related to the Bethia's struggles with the adherents of her faith vs faith's application in day to day living. The story of Bethia forced to confront my own life and my own courage (or lack of) in the light of injustices that I have witnessed over the last 30 years. It is somewhat telling...the timing of this book (published in 2011) and the Supreme's Court recent decision on the 1965 Voting Rights Act and then recent outcries from the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Injustice continues to haunt our country. Prejudice is not nearly as overt as it was in the 1600s, but in all the attempts to hide it, often it rears an ugly head. President Barack Obama's presidency is a prime example to me of this reality. Thank you Geraldine Brooks for sharing one woman's struggle to extinguish one's preconceived judgments of others who differ in faith and culture and to walk a life with open-minded courage and tenacity, expressing kindness, compassion and dignity towards someone outside her "tribe", her faith, her upbringing.

Jul 19, 2013
  • tkaeu rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

An ABSOLUTE favorite! After listening to the audiobook, I hope to someday add this book to my own collection. This was my first "read" by Geraldine Brooks. To me, her writing style was refreshing and captivating. Differing from other opinion's in the comment section, I was impressed and pleased with Jennifer Ehle's reading of Caleb's Crossing. From the first chapter, I was drawn in and related to the Bethia's struggles with the adherents of her faith vs faith's application in day to day living. The story of Bethia forced to confront my own life and my own courage (or lack of) in the light of injustices that I have witnessed over the last 30 years. It is somewhat telling...the timing of this book (published in 2011) and the Supreme's Court recent decision on the 1965 Voting Rights Act and then recent outcries from the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Injustice continues to haunt our country. Prejudice is not nearly as overt as it was in the 1600s, but in all the attempts to hide it, often it rears an ugly head. President Barack Obama's presidency is a prime example to me of this reality. Thank you Geraldine Brooks for sharing one woman's struggle to extinguish one's preconceived judgments of others who differ in faith and culture and to walk a life with open-minded courage and tenacity, expressing kindness, compassion and dignity towards someone outside her "tribe", her faith, her upbringing.

Meryl's recommendation

We become privy to an exceptional historical glimpse into 1665 and the inaugural formative years of the Harvard University. In particular an early attempt at native integration with government sponsor to drive the savage from the Indian, and assimilate him into educated contemporary life.
The focus is on Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University. Harvard’s first constructed brick building was assigned as an ‘Indian House’ where the attending First Nations were lodged and attended to study.
Naturally this historical narrative is rife with oppression and prejudice however more significant were the gains and abilities of some of these attendees against all odds. This is really the meat of the novel as well as a few of the tragedies inherent in the story.
There were four Native students who officially occupied the Native house. Out of these four, one of them, Eleazar, died before graduating. The second, Iacoombs, also died in a Mariners shipwreck while on the way back to Harvard just two months before graduating. John Wampus left the school to become a Mariner and only Caleb graduated throughout the whole existence of the experimental ‘Indian House’ endeavor. Caleb died of Tuberculosis, known as ‘consumption’ in those days, less than a year after graduation.
All historically interesting stuff but in the last half I just couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to make it go away. It got real boring real quick and I was perpetually near the end on a daily basis, falling down a bottomless pit craving to stop this carnage. Beware my friends.
By John Archibald, October, 2012

Similar in style to Carolly Erickson and Kathleen Kent, this book offers an interesting view of the American colonies long before independence was ever thought of.

Sep 20, 2012
  • Sarah1984 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

19/9 - Considering it's titled Caleb's Crossing I was surprised to find it narrated by Bethia Mayfield. It is 1660 and Bethia is the middle child of the minister of the newly settled Martha's Vineyard. She is an intelligent girl, but her father is like most men of the time and believes that there is no need to educate a girl child past the ability to keep the household books. Bethia feels frustrated and left out by her father who is attempting to educate her less intelligent, older brother Makepeace, so that he can go to Harvard. Bethia escapes the situation by roaming the wilds of the mostly unpopulated island. One day, while on the beach near the local native American settlement, a native boy approaches her. Because of her father's work to reform the natives' religious beliefs, to bring them over to the side of God and Christianity, Bethia already knows some of the native language and is able to converse with him. Bethia has finally found someone intelligent enough to hold her attention and, over the next year or so, frequently disappears from her home to meet with him on the beach. In her mind she uses the excuse of trying to save him, to convert him, as the reason why it is not a dereliction of her duty to her family to continually be away from her chores. All of this is told from a diary she is writing to record her "sins," which she believes are the reason for the tragedy that has only just started happening to her family. The further into the book you get the more the consequences of the sins she committed are realised.

20/9 - This book seemed to have deal with a lot of death. I know that's probably realistic for the era what with disease, native American attacks and weather-related disaster, but due to all the tragedies that befall the narrator, Bethia, I couldn't say that Caleb's Crossing had a happy ending. It was definitely an interesting book to read, I even learned a few new Olde English words and the way they used to spell some of our current words, but it was a little depressing. The afterword at the back of the book was useful in showing how Brooks took the small amount of information actually known about Caleb and filled in all the gaps with her imagination.

Aug 19, 2012
  • poodlegirl rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Does Geraldine Brooks write a bad book EVER??? Not in my opinion. This was one of her best. I loved the time period and history of New England, portrayed through the Puritan settlers and native american subjects. The ending was so well done (I'm not giving any clues)...and, certainly, not what I'd expected. I'd definitely recommend it.

Aug 02, 2012
  • uncommonreader rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Set in 17th century Martha's Vineyard, the daughter of a minister is converting First Nations people to Christianity. Caleb is the first aboriginal graduate of Harvard University whose crossing to English society led to the loss of his health and his life. Brooks' use of language to create the feeling of the 17th century is effective. Caleb's character is underdeveloped compared with the woman's. It portrays the horrible treatment of aboriginal peoples. This book is another example of Brooks pushing the present into the past, but somehow the book was not bad.

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