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Caleb's Crossing: A Novel Paperback – April 24, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780143121077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143121077
  • ASIN: 0143121073
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (581 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2011: When Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks came to live on Martha's Vineyard in 2006, she ran across a map by the island's native Wampanoag people that marked the birthplace of Caleb, first Native American to graduate of Harvard College--in 1665. Her curiosity piqued, she unearthed and fleshed out his thin history, immersing herself in the records of his tribe, of the white families that settled the island in the 1640s, and 17th-century Harvard. In Caleb's Crossing, Brooks offers a compelling answer to the riddle of how--in an era that considered him an intellectually impaired savage--he left the island to compete with the sons of the Puritanical elite. She relates his story through the impassioned voice of the daughter of the island's Calvinist minister, a brilliant young woman who aches for the education her father wastes on her dull brother. Bethia Mayfield meets Caleb at twelve, and their mutual affinity for nature and knowledge evolves into a clandestine, lifelong bond. Bethia's father soon realizes Caleb's genius for letters and prepares him for study at Harvard, while Bethia travels to Cambridge under much less auspicious circumstances. This window on early academia fascinates, but the book breathes most thrillingly in the island's salt-stung air, and in the end, its questions of the power and cost of knowledge resound most profoundly not in Harvard's halls, but in the fire of a Wampanoag medicine man. --Mari Malcolm --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Praise for 'People of the Book, : 'Brooks expertly guides us to the conclusion that the world is made up of only two types of people: those who would destroy books and those who would give their lives to save them. This illuminating novel, like its predecessor, is well worthy of both Pulitzer and prime-time approbation.' Independent on Sunday 'These stories have a raw and visceral power. The book is full of historical detail.' Naomi Alderman, F.T. Magazine 'An irresistible subject, given urgency by its timeliness and poignancy by its paradoxicality: for the novel is based on the true story of an ancient Jewish codex saved from the fire by a Muslim librarian. Her performance will satisfy many readers.' Guardian Praise for 'March, : 'Brooks,s considerable historical research for "March" is pleasingly lightly worn. Her efforts have borne a rich fruit. It is a big, generous romp that manages to make clever use of "Little Women" without suffocating beneath it., Sunday Times 'A tightly controlled novel in which, you sense, every sentence has been carefully weighed and calculated, and Brooks successfully balances narrative leanness with luxuriant language. "March" is that rare species: a serious popular novel that is not afraid to grapple with big ideas., Waterstones Books Quarterly 'Researched with great historical thoroughness, "March" hews faithfully to the spirit of Alcott's original ... Louise May Alcott would be well pleased.' The Economist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of the novels Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, March (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006) and Year of Wonders. She has also written two works of non-fiction: Nine Parts of Desire, based on her experiences among Muslim women in the mideast, and Foreign Correspondence, a quirky memoir about an Australian childhood enriched by penpals around the world and her adult quest to find them. Brooks started out as a reporter in her hometown, Sydney, and went on to cover conflicts as a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. She now lives on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts with her husband Tony Horwitz, two sons, a horse named Butter and a dog named Milo.

Customer Reviews

Really well written historical fiction.
Jean E. Sykes
The story of Caleb and Bethia is of lifelong friendship between a colonist and a native american.
pammy kay
I read from page 63 to the end in one sitting because I just could not put it down.
J. P.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

524 of 547 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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.
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103 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Bibanon1 VINE VOICE on May 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I have always felt that Geraldine Brooks is a truly gifted writer but I always have mixed feelings about her books. I really liked YEAR OF WONDERS. I hated MARCH. I loved loved loved PEOPLE OF THE BOOK. So, I approached CALEB'S CROSSING with a little trepidation.

Brooks has a real gift in making history come alive in her fiction. In CALEB'S CROSSING, Brooks fictionalizes the life of first Native American to graduate from Harvard. There is very little in the historical record on Caleb but Brooks manages to flesh out a compelling tale told from the perspective of a young woman named Bethia Mayfield who befriends Caleb and becomes like a sister to him. Using Bethia's point of view was genius as it allowed Brooks to delve into the roles of women in the late 1600's. We see not only Caleb's story but that of a young woman who desires nothing more than to be educated in her own right. Bethia observes as her minister father attempts to convert the Wampanoag while he is ignorant of his daughter's friendship with Caleb and fluency in the native tongue. Caleb becomes a pet project of Bethia's father as the minister tutors him in preparation for entry into Harvard. A year later, Bethia finds herself in Cambridge as an indentured servant where she witnesses the pressures Caleb feels in trying to straddle the gap between his two worlds.

CALEB'S CROSSING is a wonderful book. The juxtaposition between Bethia's experiences and Caleb's makes for a truly compelling story. I'm not sure the story would have been as effective without Bethia's voice. I was completely absorbed by the tale. I think Brooks did an excellent job of demonstrating the pressures put on individuals who were attempting to bridge cultural and societal gaps.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. A wonderful and moving tale of two people trying to find their place in the world and the toll these actions took on them.
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174 of 188 people found the following review helpful By Holly Weiss VINE VOICE on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The best historical fiction takes historical fact and pulls us in by creating interest in characters of the time period. Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks is one of the most versatile historical fiction writers of today. Her talent lays in takes a slice of history and creating a world we long to enter. Imaginatively conceived and exquisitely written with compelling characters, Caleb's Crossing will command your attention and demand your respect.

1660. Great Harbor (now Martha's Vineyard), Massachusetts. Bethia Mayfield anticipates the arrival of Caleb, a member of the Wampanoag tribe, to her home for tutoring with her minister father. Unperceived by her family, she and Caleb, who share a love of nature, have learned each other's languages and formed a friendship over the past few years. Her brother and Caleb, the first Native American to do so, enter Cambridge to prepare for studies at Harvard. Bethia feels at a loss when she leaves Martha's Vineyard to become a servant in the headmaster's home. Her love of learning prods her secret vigilance in listening to all the lessons.

Integral elements of the remarkable Caleb's Crossing are joy in learning, unexpected death, heartbreaking starvation, and the ever-present bond between Caleb and Bethia despite all hardship and prejudice against their bond. Knowledge equals power in this unique book. Caleb says, "And since it seems that knowledge is no respecter of boundaries, I will take it wheresoever I can...if necessary, I will go into the dark to get it." Intrigued?

You will find yourself reading in a leisurely fashion to fully savor the evocative prose.
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