Caleb's Crossing: Disappointed By My Own Assumptions
I didn't completely love it, and I'll tell you why: it simply didn't go the way I wanted nor expected it would go. I made some assumptions early on and when those never came to fruition, I was disappointed. Be advised this review will have mild spoilers.
Caleb's Crossing is told from the perspective of Bethia, a teenage Puritan who by chance meets Caleb, a Native American of her same age in the mid 1600’s. She is the daughter of a Christian minister, he the nephew of a tribal chief. Their friendship must remain secret until he goes on a quest to become a man, so to speak… and then, it pretty much fizzles out.
Bethia believes that everything wrong she ever encounters or suffers from in life stems from her transgression of the unapproved earlier friendship with Caleb. Even so, as he is slowly allowed to take on instruction and eventually go to Cambridge and Harvard, she watches out for him and does anything she can to assist him.
The story of his endurance and eventual graduation is very inspiring. However, I was really hoping their friendship would regain its momentum and become more of a plot line in the book. I realize this is based loosely on a true character in Caleb, and that Bethia is complete fiction, but when it became apparent that her main contribution to his life was the introduction to the crossover to English and school and Christianity only to pretty much part ways, well, I was disappointed.
Neither did I completely believe the relationship with Samuel and in fact, was not pulling for him to win her affections. She refuses him, he chases her, grabs her roughly by the hair and forces himself onto her and -- what? She's in love/lust with him all of a sudden?
Having said that, the language and writing are otherwise beautiful in this book -- very pleasing to read. Brooks has a wonderful way with words and I really enjoyed her writing style. Bethia is a strong character whom I really believed. I hated seeing her curiosity stifled, I hated her guilt when she blamed herself for tragedies, and I cheered for her when she was able to somewhat audit the Harvard classes by way of her job in the buttery.
The resolution is not a happy one, but it follows Caleb’s true history. In the end, I would have liked to learn more about him, more about his motivation for higher learning, more about what he thought of Bethia. In truth, right up to the end, I was still hoping for him to profess his undying love and devotion to her -- even if they just shared a moment such as:
"But we can't..."
"How will I go on...?"
"Yet you must!"
Not so much. Thus, the ending left me feeling kind of flat.