I Felt I Was Living Caleb's Crossing
I'm an enormous Geraldine Brooks fan. I have been ever since I read March. When BlogHer approached its bloggers about the opportunity to join a book club, I was excited. When I found out the first book was by Geraldine Brooks? I was ecstatic! Her new novel, Caleb's Crossing, lived up to everything I expect from Brooks: lyrical prose, a compelling narrator and an aching familiarity with the struggles encompassed within the novel.
The book follows Bethia, a young woman raised in Puritan New England. As a child, she stumbles into a friendship with a Native youth, a young man soon to be known as Caleb. That friendship will follow her through young adulthood, as Bethia feels the pressure of the restrictions placed upon her sex because of the times in which she lives. Ironically, because of Caleb’s quick mind, he is soon afforded the education that she so desires. Struggling to learn, while at the same time concealing her education, Bethia feels the conflict between what she knows to be right (according to her father’s religious teachings) and what she yearns to know.
Brooks’ gift lies in putting the reader inside the mind of the narrator -- in this case, Bethia. Through her, readers can feel the breezes and pulse of the island. They struggle with her as she aches for the freedom of youth while putting it behind her for the responsibilities of adulthood. They feel the pull of her loyalties to her father’s teachings, while at the same time she defends the abilities of Caleb, who others believe to be savage.
Caleb’s Crossing was everything I expect from Geraldine Brooks: I ached and cried with Bethia. I felt what she feels for Caleb. I rejoiced in the happiness Bethia eventually finds. And all of the emotions are placed in the correct historical context, so that I felt I was living it with Bethia -- as if it had truly happened exactly as Brooks described it.
As a reader, I think that’s the best compliment you can pay to any author.