Caleb's Crossing Held My Interest To The Very End
Have you ever read a book and a part of the story leaves you yelling, “No! No! That cannot happen!”? Do you sometimes feel a character’s grief so deep that you have to stop reading and get away from the story for awhile? I found myself doing both while reading Geraldine Brooks' Caleb's Crossing.
Bethia Mayfield is a young girl growing up in a small Great Harbor settlement with her minister father and family in the 1660’s. Her father puts his heart and soul into converting the Wampanoag Indians to Christianity. In these years and times, young women’s roles were to attend to the household duties alongside their mothers and siblings. Life is not always easy on the island, as a minister’s daughter, but the island is full of nature and adventure, which Bethia cherishes. Despite that, her heart is on getting a furthered education which is not proper for young women to obtain.
One day, while foraging on the beach, she encounters a native boy named Caleb. Even though forbidden, they quickly become close friends, teaching each other their own languages and spiritual beliefs. They do this all in secret, as society (and her father) would never allow such an unwholesome friendship between a gentlewoman and a savage! As time passes, Caleb comes to stay with Bethia and her family to be educated by her father and readied for college studies in Cambridge. When the time comes for him to go, circumstance also send Bethia to the same place as an indentured housekeeper. There she is able to watch over Caleb’s progress as a student as he slowly crosses over from his world as a member of the Wampanoag, to Bethia’s world of harsh education and strict manners.
I read, A LOT! I’m also a busy mother and because of that I’m really picky about the books I read. If I’m not engrossed after the first 2 chapters, I stop reading it and move on. Needless to say, I didn’t put down Caleb’s Crossing. I’ve always been pulled to stories where a forbidden relationship is at the core, whether it be a friendship or a romance. I thought that this story was headed into a romance between Caleb and Bethia, but their relationship became much different than that, but still very deep and special.
This book is written with intelligence and in such a way that I could feel the characters emotions deep in my gut. To me, that is when I know a book is good. This story was in no way predictable which I found refreshing! Also, I’ve always been intrigued by looking at the world of ours through the eyes of someone from a totally different world. Their worlds are so different, yet the bond they form as friends embeds deep into their hearts. This is not a feel-good novel in the least.
There are many tragedies that happen and I cried more than once while reading. The way the author describes Bethia’s emotions and actions when she faces despair and grief makes the reader feel she is sitting right there next to her experiencing it with her. The historical facts and descriptions of the settings are wonderfully done. I was still in Bethia’s world long after reading.
Sometimes when I read a book that is so intelligently written, I find I get bored or skip over paragraphs of endless facts that don’t interest me. I didn’t find that when I read Caleb’s Crossing. Instead, it held my interest to the very end. And as for the ending of the book, I was left feeling a bit disappointed with how things turned out for all of the characters (I just wanted Caleb and Bethia to have that slice of romance at least ONCE! I would‘ve loved a little more passion..). Maybe I've been reading too many cheesy historical romance novels!
Still, some of the characters are based on real-life people and the author followed their real life endings as she should. If you're looking for an intelligent, interesting story, pick up Caleb's Crossing