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Caleb's Crossing What becomes of those who independently and courageously navigate the intellectual and cultural shoals that divide cultures Is it truly possible to make those crossings without relinquishing one s very identity Geraldine Brooks poignantly explores these questions in her latest novel, Caleb s Crossing The story is based on sketchy knowledge of the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College and a member of the Wampanoag tribe in what is now Mar What becomes of those who independently and courageously navigate the intellectual and cultural shoals that divide cultures Is it truly possible to make those crossings without relinquishing one s very identity Geraldine Brooks poignantly explores these questions in her latest novel, Caleb s Crossing The story is based on sketchy knowledge of the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College and a member of the Wampanoag tribe in what is now Martha s Vineyard.This is truly a work of imagination since the sources on Caleb s brief, tragic, and remarkable life are scant The voice belongs to the fictional Bethia Mayfield, a minister s quick minded daughter who gently and sometimes, not so gently defies the rigid expectations of a Calvinistic society that demand silence and obedience from its womenfolk.As outsiders, both Bethia and Caleb who meet on the cusp of adolescence quickly bond and form a lifelong friendship On the sly, Bethia absorbs the language and the cultures of the Wopanaak tribe while out in the field at home, she secretly absorbs lessons that are meant for her brother Makepeace Eventually, both serendipitously find themselves at Cambridge Caleb s Harvard education conducted in the classical languages of Latin, Greek and Hebrew is funded by rich English patrons as an experiment as to whether salvages can be indoctrinated into Christian culture alongside the dismissive colonial elite Bethia goes along with Caleb and Makepeace as indentured help, striving to remain in close proximity to scholars and avoid her fate as yet another small settlement farm wife.There are plenty of twists and turns, trauma and heartbreak, celebrations and sadness along the way after all, Geraldine Brooks already has a reputation as an absorbing story teller who is able to imaginatively use history to fictional ends And it would be unfair to even allude to some of these page turning plot developments.The themes, though, are fair game This novel particularly shines when it touches upon matters of faith, which rely heavily upon John Cotton, Jr s account of his conversations with native islanders in the 1660s missionary journals according to the author in her epilogue The pantheistic view of the medicine men is placed in a high stakes battle against strict and judgmental Calvinism time and again Bethia muses, It galls me, when I catch a stray remark from the master, or between the older English pupils, to the effect that the Indians are uncommonly fortunate to be here I have come to think it is a fault in us, to credit what we give in such a case, and never to consider what must be given up in order to receive it Ms Brooks drums that point home sometimes a bit too firmly, not relying enough on the reader to form his or her own conclusions Still, there is intense observation in the civilizing of Caleb s crossing to the world inhabited uneasily by Bethia She reflects, In that shimmering, golden light I saw the wild boy I had met here four summers past, no longer wild, nor boy The hair was cut short and plain, the fringed deer hide leggings replaced with sensible black serge The wampum ornaments were gone, the bare mahogany arms sheathed now in billowing linen Yet neither was the youth who stood before me some replica of a young Englishman The story of Caleb and Bethia is part of an age old battle of repressive and misguided individuals who callously use religion to assert dominancy, superiority, and control over others As a result, destiny and preordination wrestle as the boundaries of both cultures are movingly explored in a voice that may be described as period language From the natural beauty of an early Martha s Vineyard to the drafty dormitories of Harvard College, this fictional work includes a wallop of historical fact Those who have thrilled to other Geraldine Brooks absorbingly told novels March, Year of Wonders, People of the Book will find yet onereason to rejoice Sometimes my words falter, when I try to describe my love for the kind of historical fiction Geraldine Brooks bestows to her readers, for I truly consider them gifts Maybe it s in the way her books completely inhabit a certain era and setting, even assuming the characters language and dialect Maybe it s in the way the inner mind is revealed in each abysmal narrative Maybe it is because of the cultures, important historical timeframes and events rarely mentioned those that are brought to t Sometimes my words falter, when I try to describe my love for the kind of historical fiction Geraldine Brooks bestows to her readers, for I truly consider them gifts Maybe it s in the way her books completely inhabit a certain era and setting, even assuming the characters language and dialect Maybe it s in the way the inner mind is revealed in each abysmal narrative Maybe it is because of the cultures, important historical timeframes and events rarely mentioned those that are brought to the forefront through stylistically alluring narrative Maybe it is in the way historical research is exemplified through lucid, sometimes lyrical, prose Who knows Whatever it is, the definition eludes me, or perhaps it is in all these things I mention What I do know is the feeling, that awareness that comes with knowing you re in the hands of a writer who has done diligent research and structuringWho are we, really Are our souls shaped, our fates written in full by God, before we draw our first breath Do we make ourselves, by the choices we our selves make Or are we clay merely, that is molded and pushed into the shape that our betters propose for us I didn t love People of the Book, I loved the somber language in Year of Wonders, and I was taken captive by the melancholic music of March And now this book Bethia is the narrator that lures you from your world into her mire She loses her mother when her baby sister is born, and soon after, she starts to lose everyone she loves She becomes a servant to put her brother through college she who reads rare books in secret because she hopes to go to college like her brother, even though she is told that because she is a woman, she must marry, have children, cook, and clean Unshaken, Bethia sneaks and self educates Her voice is the emboldened one of feministic womanhood a woman who manages to make a romantic choice that befits her mind yes, finally, a heroine from the 1600s who marries the guy who allows her to remain herself When Bethia narrates the story of Caleb, it is intimate and revealing There are moment when words form onto the page from her heartbeats and at those moments, it s impossible to take a break from the book The story of Caleb is based on the true story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a seventeenth century graduate of Harvard, and the first Native American to do so The notes state Harvard s 1650 charter describes its mission as the education of the English and Indian youth of this country, oh the surprising things we learn when we read The setting centers around the elite Martha Vineyard, once partly Native American territory Caleb enters Bethia s life when it is forbidden, because she is a Christian minister s daughter, she is a white woman, and her Indian neighbors are considered heathens and savages Despite this, Bethia and Caleb become best friends who traverse their broken world through the W pan ak language What transpires duringCaleb s Crossing to the English language, to Christianity, and to English schooling is breathtakingly inspiring, heartbreaking because of the irony that will lead to his misfortune, and profoundly movingHis name was Cheeshahteaumauck In his tongue, it means something like hateful one When he told me this, I thought that my limited grasp of his language was defeating me For what manner of people would name a child so But when I asked if his father indeed hated him, he laughed at me Names, he said, flow into one like a drink of cool water, remain for a year or a season, and then, maybe, give way to another,apt one He calls her Storm Eyes For a season, she will daringly become this name, and then one day, she will tell him to stop calling her that, for the name only suited her for a season Do we make ourselves by the choices we our selves makeIn this intermingling of fate, faith and choice, life is questioned after a man of God perishes at sea, and an innocent child faces peril when a young man leaves the home where he is loved for another home where he is tolerated when death looms at every intersection when gender and ethnic strife take precedence I closed this book thinking, all great books enlighten the mind, enrage the spirit, and enrapture the heart while forcing one to note the essence of humanity 3.5they were clad in Adam s livery, save that their fig leaf was a scrap of hide slung from a tie at their waists But it was his light temper and his easy laugh that drew me close to him, over time, until I forgot he was a half naked, sassafras scented heathen anointed with raccoon grease He was, quite simply, my dearest friend Bethia makes friends with asalvageyes, with an L , as they are called throughout the book, and names him Caleb , while he calls her Storm Eyes Ge 3.5they were clad in Adam s livery, save that their fig leaf was a scrap of hide slung from a tie at their waists But it was his light temper and his easy laugh that drew me close to him, over time, until I forgot he was a half naked, sassafras scented heathen anointed with raccoon grease He was, quite simply, my dearest friend Bethia makes friends with asalvageyes, with an L , as they are called throughout the book, and names him Caleb , while he calls her Storm Eyes Geraldine Brooks is one of the best when it comes to plucking her stories straight out of the past You could be forgiven for thinking you are reading a diary or true account of an English American woman of the 1600s Bethia loves the island, which is something she finds she has in common with this native whose home her people have taken over We are taught early here to see Nature as a foe to be subdued But I came, by stages, to worship it You could say that for me, this island and her bounties became the first of my false gods, the original sin that begot so much idolatry My usual complaint about Brooks s otherwise wonderful historical fiction stands there is no glossary and no way to look up the actual meaning of some words I feel pretty certain that Brooks herself knows exactly what she means, and it s an unnecessary nuisance for readers to have to guess or stop reading and start researching The words aren t usually critical to the story, but some are used so oftenbever , for example, that I want to know where it came from Of course I assumed it may have evolved intobeverage , but I think it s actuallylike afternoon tea for many people, or a little something for Winnie the Pooh.Back to Bethia She s a girl growing up on what is now Martha s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts and now a favourite holiday spot of wealthy, influential Americans She loves nothing better than galloping around on Speckle, the family horse, and absorbing what Caleb has to teach her about the island and the ocean I had learned that we saw it in quite different ways He had taught me, long ago, how to see a school of fish moving through the water deep below the surface how a certain change of light and dark could disclose them and reveal where one must throw out a net Because of him, the sea to me was no longer an opaque mystery, but a most useful lens Her family knows nothing of him, of course She is also not supposed to be listening to the lessons her minister father gives his son and others, but something she learned from her mother and had trouble practising was how and when to hold her tongue She was like a butterfly, full of color and vibrancy when she chose to open her wings, yet hardly visible when she closed them My mother taught me the use of silence She does put that advice to good use by being quiet and slow when setting and clearing the table while the menfolk are discussing serious events, and by doing so, she melts into the background and hears and learns farthan her father intends.He loves her and her quick wit, but he despairs for her future, hoping she ll marry well The book concentrates on her desire to learn and on the Native Americans being invited to learn and study at the new Harvard College from the age of 16 England is determined to make inroads into the resident population and funds their education, but after the crossing for study from the island and onto the mainland , the book takes another turn.I enjoyed the characters and the story, but I was never completely absorbed in it The stilted language makes it feel authentic but causes me to see too many words as terms rather than as phrases and sentences telling me a story Might be just me I was fascinated by the information about the Wampanoag people and how they lived, and I still enjoy her fine writing I completely understand the feeling of aday so sweet and still that I moved through it as if floating in a bath of honey It had rained hard the night before that kind of heavy, sharp scented summer rain that lays the dust and washes the pollen from the air, leaving everything rinsed and bright If you like reading about early America, this is a great place to start But keep a search engine handy for vocabulary if you re that sort of reader This fourth novel by Brooks was quite successful to me at immersing the reader in a 17th century colony on the island of Martha s Vineyard in Massachusetts and bringing to life important issues of the time from a personal perspective It takes place in the golden period of peace with the Indians between the first colony in Plymouth in 1620 and the onset of King Philip s War in 1675, which was covered so well in Philbrick s popular history Mayflower In this period, cooperation worked relativel This fourth novel by Brooks was quite successful to me at immersing the reader in a 17th century colony on the island of Martha s Vineyard in Massachusetts and bringing to life important issues of the time from a personal perspective It takes place in the golden period of peace with the Indians between the first colony in Plymouth in 1620 and the onset of King Philip s War in 1675, which was covered so well in Philbrick s popular history Mayflower In this period, cooperation worked relatively well, and it seemed that there was enough room for both peoples The story here covers the coming of age of a Puritan preacher s daughter, Bethia Mayfield, and her secret friendship with a Wampanoag boy known as Caleb They learn each other s language and cultural traditions in an open and respectful way This was the most satisfying part of the book for me, taking place in the context of the natural, unspoiled beauty of the setting Even as a young teenager, Bethia s brilliant mind sees beyond the outlook that the Indian belief in many gods is the work of Satan Her father has a lot of respect for the Indians as people, but that doesn t deter his overall mission of converting them to Christianity He institutes a separate community of praying Indians similar to those pioneered by John Eliot in the Boston area Unlike the Jesuits in Canada who tried to get the Indians to add Christianity to their traditional culture, these are pressured to abandon their usual way of life We are proud that Caleb takes up special preparatory education to enter a special program at Harvard and proves himself the equal of whites in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but it is inevitable to feel also the tragedy of his sacrifice in giving up his way of life More of the story s focus is on Bethia s negotiation of a pathway toward a fulfilling position in this society where there are few options for a woman interested in books and ideas She begins to find a niche in her local community helping with midwifery and adapting herbal medicine to the care of the sick She struggles with jealousy over her brother s education towards becoming a minister despite inferior talent compared to her own She rises to the challenges of tragedies in her community and seeds of conflict between peoples when Caleb s medicine man uncle tries to fight back against erosion of their culture She does find a believable solution There is no descent into a sappy love story in the plot, nor drift into artificial drama Brooks works backward from the fact of a Native American graduate at Harvard and conceives of a realistic but engaging story that can account for how that could have happened.I have appreciated all four of Brook s diverse efforts in historical fiction I this tale, Bethia is a woman ahead of her time, much like the heroine in Brook s A Year of Wonders who assumes a valuable role in a late medieval English town quarantined with a plague outbreak Although to many the disastrous plight of Native Americans in the face of the European colonial domination of America might seem inevitable, I like to imagine the prospects of alternatives And this tale in the early decades of the New England colonies shines for its window on those lost possibilities of peace and understanding between peoples Deeply affecting novel4.5 stars Absolutely stunning book I read from page 63 to the end in one sitting because I just could not put it down Utterly lovely and heartbreaking.Bethia, the narrator, is a strong female voice and beautifully written The other characters are vividly drawn and just as affecting The way Brooks has written the book from three points in Bethia s life, but looking back on what has happened to bring her to that point is very skilfully done and provides an arc to th Deeply affecting novel4.5 stars Absolutely stunning book I read from page 63 to the end in one sitting because I just could not put it down Utterly lovely and heartbreaking.Bethia, the narrator, is a strong female voice and beautifully written The other characters are vividly drawn and just as affecting The way Brooks has written the book from three points in Bethia s life, but looking back on what has happened to bring her to that point is very skilfully done and provides an arc to the narrative that gives the reader a sense of completeness That she has used the small amount she uncovered about this real man s life oh so long ago to write this book shows her remarkable imagination and her talent for creating lives and whole histories from small kernels of truth Caleb and Bethia s lives intersect and cross over one another in both magical and tragic ways, but it is representative of the two very different worlds they come from and what so often happened upon these worlds meeting There is a true beauty to their friendship and story that even now, as I am writing this, brings me to tears.Both characters are struggling to find their place in their ever changing world Bethia is trying to balance her identity as a Christian woman with that of a seeker of knowledge who craves and rejoices in learning her conversations on this topic with others and her own inner thoughts and desires provide us with very interesting insight into how women s education and a woman s place were viewed at the time Caleb is trying to stay true to the spirits and the Wampanoag way of life, while also finding a place for himself and his people so that they may survive these newcomers and the unstoppable change they bring The dialogue between him and Bethia regarding their separate religions and traditions, as well as Bethia s own reflections, gives rise to very thought provoking issues regarding faith, religion, spirituality, and culture Is it possible to wed two different ways of thinking, two different belief systems Does an attempt to do so automatically compromise one or both How do we stay true to ourselves and our history, while also adapting in order to survive I took Caleb s Crossing out from the library, but will want to buy my own copy It s an emotionally engaging and deeply moving work that I know I will want to reread Raw as it left me feeling, I know this story will stay with me for many, many days, causing me to question and wonder I have read nearly all of Geraldine Brooks books fiction and non , and have really enjoyed all that I have read Caleb s Crossing just didn t do it for me I thought it started slow, but then once it got going, I was very much into it enjoying the strong female character who is smart and ahead of her time something I think Brooks has done well in the past I also enjoyed the exploration of the tension created for and between the two main characters by different religious experiences But wh I have read nearly all of Geraldine Brooks books fiction and non , and have really enjoyed all that I have read Caleb s Crossing just didn t do it for me I thought it started slow, but then once it got going, I was very much into it enjoying the strong female character who is smart and ahead of her time something I think Brooks has done well in the past I also enjoyed the exploration of the tension created for and between the two main characters by different religious experiences But when I reached the end, I couldn t help thinking Geraldine phoned it in The ending is one of these and now I m going to cover 50 years in ten pages because I don t trust you Reader to be happy imagining those years endings I was so disappointed, especially knowing how glorious the ending to Year of Wonders Brooks first novel with a strong female character ahead of her time was There, the central character plunges into the tumult of a wharf and the tide of life with confidence and spirit I was just let down by the treatment of the ending, and the fate of the central female character, in Caleb s Crossing 3.5 sBethia Mayfield was twelve years of age when she met Caleb, one of the local native Wampanoag inhabitants in a jaunt across the beaches of Great Harbor As he taught Bethia the native ways, she knew she had to keep her burgeoning friendship with Caleb a secret Her father was a minister, and the life of a young girl in 1665 was closeted letting him know of her friendship with Caleb was something she knew she could never do.After Bethia s mother died in childbirth, she took over the care o 3.5 sBethia Mayfield was twelve years of age when she met Caleb, one of the local native Wampanoag inhabitants in a jaunt across the beaches of Great Harbor As he taught Bethia the native ways, she knew she had to keep her burgeoning friendship with Caleb a secret Her father was a minister, and the life of a young girl in 1665 was closeted letting him know of her friendship with Caleb was something she knew she could never do.After Bethia s mother died in childbirth, she took over the care of her father, brother and baby sister She loved to learn, using her father s teaching of her brother to help her her horse Speckle and Bethia were inseparable as they raced across the countryside And as she grew to womanhood, Caleb was being educated by her father until he was sent to Harvard College where his studies included Latin and Greek He became the first Native American to matriculate college Caleb s Crossing by Aussie author Geraldine Brooks is a fascinating insight into the cultures and differences back in 17th century America, while our narrator, Bethia is a strong character and suffers tragedy and loss, heartache and sorrow The Afterword is extremely interesting as the author explains about the real life Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk and her inspiration to create the fictional story in Caleb s Crossing Recommended A richly imagined new novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller, People of the Book Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life In , a young man from Martha s Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure The narrator of Caleb s Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island s glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other Bethia s minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe s shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb s crossing of cultures Like Brooks s beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha s Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart Evocative and utterly absorbing, Caleb s Crossing further establishes Brooks s place as one of our most acclaimed novelistsWatch a Video Another wow from Geraldine Brooks There s a level of writing and storytelling that consistently sets the bar high, and Brooks sets this high bar with every stroke of the key She continues to find the obscure thread of history and create a story around it that completely enthralls the reader As with her previous novels, I became ensconced into the time, places, and people of this tale There is always a higher calling to the stories, a David vs Goliath struggle that finds you passionately p Another wow from Geraldine Brooks There s a level of writing and storytelling that consistently sets the bar high, and Brooks sets this high bar with every stroke of the key She continues to find the obscure thread of history and create a story around it that completely enthralls the reader As with her previous novels, I became ensconced into the time, places, and people of this tale There is always a higher calling to the stories, a David vs Goliath struggle that finds you passionately pulling for the underdog and exasperated with the ignorance and intolerance of those in power Caleb s Crossing is a tale inspired by the first Native American graduate of Harvard, Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, a member of the Wopanaak tribe from what is now Martha s Vineyard In 1665, he accomplished this extraordinary feat, having learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in the process Brooks was able to take scant information about this amazing scholar and spin a plausible and intriguing story that vividly recreates the era of history in which Native Americans were usually referred to as salvages savages and women were routinely denied control of their destinies The narrator of the story is Bethia Mayfield, daughter of Great Harbor s, as part of the island was called then, minister Her grandfather had purchased the land from the Indians, attempting in his own way, a fair settlement Bethia and Caleb become friends at a young age, unbeknownst to their families and friends, and exude some influence over each other She teaches him English, and he teaches her his native tongue and the riches of the island s natural beauties Life is hard on the island, and indeed in the late 17th century America, and Bethia and Caleb must overcome many prejudices and tragedies to claim a piece of the budding new world for themselves Both clash with controlling family members, Bethia with her brother and Caleb with his uncle, and their relatives ideas of what is best for them in contrast to what the two friends secretly covet The novel is as much about breaking free of the chains that bind one as it is about Caleb s rise to Harvard graduate The treatment of Native Americans and women had much in common in the 1660 s age of white man s suppressive authority Some would allow that the struggle still continues.As with her previous novel, People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks has given readers a fascinating historical fiction read in Caleb s Crossing Her writing is superb and her subjects are unparalleled in their captivating ability to transport the reader to another time and place Perhaps, Brooks novels shouldaccurately be listed under time travel If you cross The Mill on the Floss with The Last of the Mohicans, add a dash of Dances with Wolves, a pinch of Little House on the Prairie, maybe some The Education of Little Tree , The Scarlet Letter and even Caleb s Crossing It s a good clean cut visit to 17th c Massachusetts, told by a girl named Bethia Her family are Puritans trying to convert the Indians The relationship between Bethia and her brother is very much like that of If you cross The Mill on the Floss with The Last of the Mohicans, add a dash of Dances with Wolves, a pinch of Little House on the Prairie, maybe some The Education of Little Tree , The Scarlet Letter and even Tom Brown s School Days, you ll have a winner and call it Caleb s Crossing It s a good clean cut visit to 17th c Massachusetts, told by a girl named Bethia Her family are Puritans trying to convert the Indians The relationship between Bethia and her brother is very much like that of Maggie and Tom Tulliver Caleb is Natty Bumppo, Tom Brown and Little Tree all rolled into one The Caleb of the story is the real life Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, who became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University In 1665 Almost nothing is known about him Brooks has done much research to create a plausible back story Yet, I felt skeptical about many of the things the characters said, and how they interacted Would they really say that, do that The general themes of coming to terms with inequality and intolerance, rich vs poor, men vs women, seemed anachronistic, too modern, in spite of the good effort to use language in an authentic way even that seemed laid on a bit thick But then, I just let go of this over analysis and enjoyed the story This would be a very good YA book, especially for girls Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck

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