Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Let me first say I’m proud of myself for getting through this one, because it did not fit The Mandate. This was not happy subject matter. That said, I loved it. Brooks is such an amazing writer (I may have mentioned this once or twice before) and I always enjoy her books even if I’m not crazy about the subject matter (ahem, March).

I waited not-so-patiently on the list for this one through the library, and am glad that I did: so worth it. I read this one at warp speed again, so I’m pretty sure I missed out on some of the subtleties. I am looking forward to reading it again in a year or so. I think this is my second-favourite book of Brooks’, next to The People of the Book. (Though of course I haven’t read Nine Parts of Desire or Foreign Correspondence.)

It starts out on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the mid-1600s, where Bethia is the daughter of a minister attempting to bring the natives of the island into the folds of Jesus Christ, so to speak. (In watching the trailer for the book, I have just learned that her name is pronounced Beth-EYE-uh, not BETH-ee-uh as I was pronouncing it in my mind as I read the book. Good to know.) She’s smart and eager to learn; not things girls are supposed to be (or be proud of) in 1650. One day, while out collecting things for dinner, she encounters a native american boy. The two become secret friends, teaching each other their languages and cultures. Bethia gives him the English name of Caleb, and he gives her the Wampanoag name of Storm Eyes.

This part of the book I enjoyed a lot. I like Bethia’s spunk, and her thirst for knowledge. I liked their developing friendship. Of course, then many of the Wampanoags (not sure this is the correct plural) get sick, and the happiness factor of the story goes downhill from there. I took a break at this point, to remove myself from the story a bit. I’m not going to lie, I even considered not finishing the book. But I kept thinking about the story and I wanted to know what happened, so I picked it up again.

Caleb goes to live with Bethia’s family, so he can learn latin and greek and get an English education, and then moves on to the mainland to continue with his education alongside Bethia’s brother Makepeace.

I sometimes find it hard to read books about what idiots people were in the past (even though the book is fictional, I’m betting the attitudes of its characters are fairly representative of the time and place), but Bethia is a great narrator and I wanted badly to read that she didn’t end up trodden upon just because she’s a woman.

I also really liked the title of this book. In continuing with this trend of reading about what idiots we all have been in the past, the next book I’ve finished is The Help by Katherine Stockett. After starting this one, and realizing that it was also serious and not-very-happy subject matter, I took a brief break to read… dunh-dunh-dunh…. a graphic novel! Oh yes. My first one ever (since I don’t count the Archie comics I used to read in elementary school).

 

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