Friday, November 22, 2013

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

First sentence:

"He is coming on the Lord's Day."


In her new novel Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks once again takes a shard of little known history and brings it vividly to life. In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. From the few facts that survive of this extraordinary life, Brooks creates a luminous tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure.

The voice of Caleb's Crossing belongs to Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny island settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. Posses of a restless spirit and a curious mind, Bethia slips the bounds of her rigid society to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native inhabitants. At twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other.

Bethia's father is Great Harbor's minister, who feels called to convert the Wampanoag to his own strict Calvinism. He awakens the wrath of the medicine men, against whose magic he must test his faith in a high stakes battle that may cost his life and his very soul. Caleb becomes a prize in this contest between old ways and new, eventually taking his place at Harvard, studying Latin and Greek alongside the sons of the colonial elite. Bethia also finds herself in Cambridge at the behest of her imperious elder brother. As she fights for a voice in a society that requires her silence, she also becomes entangled in Caleb's struggle to navigate the intellectual and cultural shoals that divide their two cultures..

What becomes of these characters--the triumphs and turmoil they endure in embracing their new destinies--is the subject of this riveting and intensely observed novel. Like Brooks's beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves and emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha's Vineyard and to the intimate spaces of the human heart. The narrative travels from the sparkling harbors of Martha's Vineyard to the mean, drafty dormitories of early Harvard and, as ever, Brooks buttresses her richly imagined fiction with the fascinating and meticulously researched detail that has brought her legions of readers and a Pulitzer Prize." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This was a fascinating book about the European-Native American encounters in 17th century New England. Brooks does a great job fleshing out the characters and giving a sense of what could have been if Caleb had survived.

Date read: 11/21/2013
Book #: 36
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN-10: 0670021040
ISBN-13: 9780670021048
Publisher: Viking
Year: 2011
# of pages: 300
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing page

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