Caleb's Crossing: Absorbing and Believable
She slips into the wilderness in secret and I find myself, in the age of social media and modern freedoms, inexplicably identifying with her as she questions her religious colonial upbringing. It is Caleb's Crossing only in as much as the title that adorns the front of the paperback in my hands. Truly the story that unfolds is hers, that of Bethia Mayfield whose voice makes up the narrative of a tale that traces the course of Caleb's life from the periphery.
The jacket declares “Caleb’s intellectual and spiritual crossing of cultures with all its risks and losses, triumphs and turmoil,” but it’s not Caleb’s exploits that I was drawn to and one could easily replace his name with hers in that sentence in order to better define the book. It is her journey through the age old questions of divinity that we become intimate with, and her experience as a woman in a female-oppressed society in which we feel the deepest of turmoil. I thought my eyes would come across a familiar story of unrequited love but my assumption of such a happily ever after was far from the mark. This is no formulaic piece of writing and the path of each character is constantly averted from the expected. It portrays life situations faring in a way that is both absorbing and believable, consistent with the time in which it is set, though you can’t help but hope for the characters you grow to know.
It is a good read, if not a bit tedious at times, and an engaging historical account albeit a fictional one. I felt the end a bit lacking, as while I enjoyed Bethia’s recounting of life in the 1600s, I found that her tragedies and triumphs fell a bit flat. If the book was to serve as her desolate final accounting, I could not find the reason behind her desperation to pen it. If anything, it made me want to seek out a biographical account of Caleb, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College, as he remained a mystery to me throughout the novel that bears his name. I foresee more of Geraldine Brooks' works gracing my e-reader as I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style.