Caleb's Crossing is a Breath-Taking Tale of Love and Courage

BlogHer Review

I have always admired authors of historical fiction, but never more so than while reading Caleb's Crossing, the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, by Geraldine Brooks. To say this book was a labor of love is an understatement.

The amount of research that Geraldine Brooks obviously undertook in order to tell the story of Bethia and Caleb is mind-boggling. She took an event for which there were scant details and, using secondary sources and imagination, wove a stunning work of fiction. Every page is full of facts about the regions (both Martha’s Vineyard, and later, Harvard College), the Wampanoag and the Puritans, the tensions between those two groups, gender issues, discoveries of sameness and difference, and questions of faith and religion. Not only was I wrapped up in the plot and characters, but enchanted by the “history lesson” that didn’t feel like I was listening to a lecture.

Above that, Brooks creates such a perfect and unwavering tone throughout the book. The word choice constantly reminds you how hard she worked to make this book come from a narrator in the late 1600s. Fun phrases like “clad in Adam’s livery” make you stop and think and then chuckle. What a great way to say someone is naked!

At first I was not sure if I would like the book being told from Bethia’s point of view instead of Caleb’s -- if the novel is supposedly about Caleb being the first Native American to attend Harvard, then why is he not telling his story? It only took me five pages to realize I loved Bethia, and the struggles she faced to prove her strength and wisdom as a woman in her colonial “prison” was mirrored in Caleb, and her passion and confusion made the story that much stronger.

Caleb’s Crossing is truly a breath-taking tale of love, courage, and the journeys in life that seem impossible but are feasible with strength and conviction. I would recommend this book to history lovers and all readers who love a good story you will find yourself entranced in and unable to put down.

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