Caleb's Crossing: Read the Afterword First
I sat down with Caleb's Crossing, totally unsure of what to expect, having never read any of Geraldine Brooks' books before. It was slow going at first, but soon I felt as if something big was coming, so I continued to turn pages, anxiously awaiting the payoff. Unfortunately, I was left unsatisfied, and a little frustrated after reading the Afterword.
There are loads of picturesque scenes described, great attention to detail, and what I can only assume is an accurate portrayal of what life might be like for the daughter of a missionary in the 1600s (thank God things have progressed since then!), but I'm not much of a details kind of girl. Give me plot, and lay it on thick.
As the book approached what seemed like a climax, I thought, "Here we go! This is it!" and then my excitement fizzled out when nothing happened. "That can't have been it?" I thought, and continued to turn pages in expectation. Caleb's graduation from one of America's most prestigious colleges, the whole purpose behind telling the story, fell flat, with little to no fanfare, granted there were reasons behind it, but I simply finished the last chapter and said, "Well that's that." Then I read the author's "Afterword."
I strongly recommend to anyone planning to read this book, to read the Afterword FIRST, before investing emotions into the story line and characters. Even though the author states in the beginning that it is a fictional imagining based on historic facts, I felt cheated at the end when I realized just how fictional it was. SPOILER ALERT: The main character, the narrator is completely made up. This isn't shared until the Afterword. I have read other fictional books based on facts in history, and enjoyed them greatly, but they weren't tied so closely to facts in history that their creative license became stretched to the max.
The fact is [potential SPOILER again], that there are very few available details on the journey that the real Caleb, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, took during his life and the book is in fact less about Caleb as it is about the fictional character who takes credit for his success. While it's definitely interesting, poignant and descriptive, with so little true facts about Caleb's life, yet the story so closely tied to him, I was left wondering why the book was even written. That might be a little harsh, but that's just how I feel!