Caleb's Crossing is a Brilliant Work of Art
By write 2 the point on April 14, 2011
The journey of young Bethia Mayfield living on what is now Martha's Vineyard surprised me in a myriad of ways. Written in the enchanting New England language of the 1600s, author Geraldine Brooks wove me into Caleb's Crossing with picturesque words deftly crafted to enable each of my senses to enter into the world of a young girl and her innocent, but forbidden, friendship with Caleb, a young Wampanoag Indian boy.
Interspersed with immense tragedy, the story is punctuated with charming childhood antics whose pleasure were often squelched by the overly scrupulous religious rules and limited roles of women. However, spirited young woman that she is, Bethia casts aside concerns for her reputation in order to secretly teach Caleb to read and write, while earnestly planting seeds of conversion into his young mind. Throughout those years, the two developed a strong brother-sister type friendship.
As they matured, both seemed destined to go their own way, Bethia into the strict Calvin background fulfilling the roles predestined for a young woman in an arranged marriage, and Caleb, into the roles required of him, as a spiritual healer in his community.
Tragic circumstances bring them together again, Bethia serving as an indentured servant, working in a boarding school to pay for her brother's education, and Caleb attending the school on scholarship.
The story of Caleb becoming the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College is based on true events, and comes with many twists and turns, a few pleasant, but many heart-wrenching.
I enjoyed the book and found it difficult to put down once I began. The author's research into the language alone is exceptional and I found myself immersed in the world of Bethia and her family. Her writing is eloquent and colorful.
If there was one aspect I didn't like, it was of no fault of the author, but the incredible tragedy and stamina of those living in that era made me appreciate the sacrifices of our early Americans and a genuine wretchedness for our role in the treatment of the American Indians.
This book is a must-read.
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