Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing

Book - 2011
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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.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2011
ISBN: 9780670021048
0670021040
Branch Call Number: FICTION BROOKS 2011
Characteristics: ix, 306 p. : map ; 24 cm

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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.

Growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans, Bethia Mayfield yearns for an education that is closed to her due to her gender. As soon as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observes its native Wampanoag inhabitant... Read More »

Bethia rails against a life of indentured servitude that is her lot as a woman in 17th century New England, and watches with admiration and envy as her friend Caleb becomes the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.

Bethia rails against a life of indentured servitude that is her lot as a woman in 17th century New England, and watches with admiration and envy as her friend Caleb becomes the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.


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Dennis Robert Rue
Feb 08, 2016

Definitely a skilled writer with imagination coupled with good research who knows how to make an interesting storyline punctuated with enough fact, drama and romance to tow the reader along.
Will definitely try her other novels.

g
gusmcrae
Feb 03, 2016

Geraldine Brooks has to be one of the finest writers of our time. Her writing fully immerses her readers into worlds set in centuries past, and she manages to do so in a form that is truthful to the time and place of the book's setting. She gives us a glimpse into the lives of characters who are true to their time (and not modernized versions). Brooks' novels often explore the religious beliefs of the day, and often from the perspective of women.

"Caleb's Crossing" is based around the story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, of the Wampanoag tribe--the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University. True to Brooks' storytelling style, though, the book follows a young woman, in this case, the fictional Bethia, a young Puritan girl who befriends Caleb as a child and who finds her life intertwined with his after her minister father decides to help educate Caleb so he can go to the Indian School at Harvard. Bethia is a natural learner, but is a female, and therefore, although she takes in as much knowledge as she can, she knows her life is restricted to that of serving as a wife and mother and running a household.

I very much enjoyed following Bethia on her journey from Martha's Vineyard, to Cambridge, and beyond. Every time I picked up the book, I felt drawn into her world (and so grateful for the freedoms I have that she was denied!)

With that said, the book was not the fastest read. And I can't say I felt as compelled to pick it up as often as I would like a book to do for me. But all-in-all, I enjoyed it, and came away with a bit more knowledge of my country's history.

PimaLib_MaryG Dec 07, 2015

Author Geraldine Brooks is an amazing writer of historical fiction. In this novel she creates a fictional friend of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, to tell a story of what it may have been like in the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bethia Mayfield educates herself in two by eavesdropping on her brother's lessons with her missionary father and through secret meetings with her friend Cheeshahteaumuck, the son of a Wampanoag leader. I had to stay up all night to finish reading this.

b
BurtonP
Nov 25, 2015

This was captivating historical fiction from a girls diary perspective. I would've preferred it to be about fiction with a happy ending instead of the white patrons proving they could train this primitive savage (spelled salvage in the book-like some kind of salvage operation). Caleb's dream to help his own people/tribe was not realized because he died of malnutrition, cold and prejudice. Reflects history but did not make for a good ending.

h
hildesanders
Oct 15, 2015

Wonderful beginning, great story until the last quarter, then I was slammed to the ground wondering if someone had glued the last pages to a different book into my book! I had to read the other comments on this website to see if i was alone in my thinking! Very dissappointed!!! I loved Year of Wonders! Looks like i need to try People of the Book.

AquaSabi Aug 09, 2015

This is a good read. The author writes her ideas on the lives of the first two known Native American scholars to attend what would become Harvard University. This is seen through the perspective of Bethia who is a resident of English background living on an island settlement on the Great Harbor. Bethia is a strong-willed character who strives for an education. Along the way she picks up on a fair amount of knowledge. Later in the book she is able to even learn some of what the university scholars receive by working in the cook's kitchen and keeping an attentive ear to the door. Caleb (0riginally called Cheeshateaumauk), is in line towards becoming the next leader of his tribe but through his friendship with Bethia and her father (who seeks on converting the Native inhabitants of the island) he starts on an English education and soon eventually converts to Christianity. Joel is another Native inhabitant who takes a similar path. Even in the face of opposition from other people solely on their being Native people, Joel and Caleb obtains great successes in their English education. This story has it's share of tragedy but the characters and the story makes for an interesting read.

Chapel_Hill_KenMc Jun 23, 2015

Brooks has a talent for making history come alive, with deft use of period vocabulary and nuanced portrayals of historical cultures and communities. She's also not afraid to tackle huge issues: in this case the racism of early English colonial settlements in New England, and the patriarchal stifling of women's abilities and educational opportunities. The story follows a teenage girl in 17th-century Martha's Vineyard as she navigates her feelings for a local Wampanoag youth and her resentment at being denied access to education. The characters are complex and richly crafted, with thoughtful exploration of their relationships and emotions. Readers may be put off by the sometimes over-eager voice of the teenage narrator, but her story consistently demands attention.

i
IV27HUjg
Mar 01, 2015

Not my favorite story of this favorite writer - that is Year of Wonders. How she finds voice to each era of story amazes me. Meticulous researcher in all she writes.

k
kathylou
Feb 12, 2015

Interesting story but tiresomely presented by Bethia in the first person, a spunky girl who is smarter, better read, more sensitive, harder working , etc than any other person. Since the other characters weren't well developed, I had trouble getting into this book and started skipping ahead.
I usually love G Brooks' books and this isn't bad but it certainly is not her best.

d
debjani71
Sep 02, 2014

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 ?

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