Caleb's Crossing: A Pastor's Wife's Point of View
By ethanzachemma on April 06, 2011
Bethia Mayfield is the daughter of a Puritan minister, living in the settlement of Great Harbor, on the island that is now known as Martha’s Vineyard. She aches to be educated as her brother is, and gleans from his lessons as she does her duties in the home. She starts exploring the island, bringing back offerings of berries and clams to explain her absences. During one exploration, she meets a native Wampanoag boy whom she names Caleb. They share a secret friendship -- Bethia teaching him about her faith, and Caleb teaching her about the island and his own native beliefs. Bethia’s father wishes to convert the natives of the island, and brings Caleb into their home, (all the while not knowing of the friendship between Caleb and his daughter) educating him with the classics of Latin and Greek. Not long after, Bethia finds herself indentured in Cambridge, while Caleb and her brother study to prepare for their college education at Harvard.
I have to say, Caleb's Crossing was a fascinating book. I don’t often turn to the pages of a historical novel, but I’m really glad I read this one. The author, Geraldine Brooks, did a wonderful job of really helping us to get to know Bethia’s character -- all of the important details that wove her into the person she became at the end of the book. I came to really admire Bethia, and found myself cheering for her when things went well, and mourning with her during the many difficult times in her life.
As a pastor’s wife, it was equally intriguing to me to read about Bethia’s father, and his mission among the native Wampanoag people. Comparing the strict religious practices that the Puritans subscribed to with my own Lutheran beliefs today added a dimension to the book that I think I would have missed otherwise.
I think this book is appealing in many ways. It keeps the attention of a history buff. There’s instances of love and friendship that appeal to the softer side. Intertwined in the chapters are intellectual and religious questions that leave you thinking long after you put the book down.
One of my favorite judging qualities of a book is how fast I get hooked into it. Some books I can read in a short day; others I take weeks to plod through. There’s even a few that I haven’t made past the first few chapters before I’ve returned it to the library. I read this book, Caleb’s Crossing, in the matter of two days. It took awhile for me to get used to the period language the author used, but once I got to know Bethia and Caleb, I didn’t want to put it down. I even found myself annoyed at having to make dinner for my family, just because I wanted to see what happened next!
That said, I highly recommend Caleb’s Crossing. It’s a wonderful story, one that won’t leave you and will keep you turning page after page. I think it’s a wonderful book if you’re looking for a new selection for your book club, since it brings up so many wonderful questions about life, education, and religion. It won’t disappoint you!
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