Book Club Report: Caleb’s Crossing
Publisher: Viking, 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: B+
One of my friends is a super-fan of Geraldine Brooks. She’s read all of her books at least once, and urges everyone she knows to read her too. When it was my friend’s turn to host our book club, she picked thislatest offering by Geraldine Brooks, Caleb’s Crossing.
My friend did a fantastic job of outlining Geraldine Brooks’ life and what she has written. Ms. Brooks has an excellent resume of journalistic work (foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal) as well as her list of six novels. I like the fact that she writes so widely. Each book is set in a different place and time.
Caleb’s Crossing is a fictionalized story about a young boy/man, Caleb, who becomes the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665. He was born and raised on the island off Massachusetts that is now called Martha’s Vineyard. We first meet him as a twelve-year-old. Immediately, it’s obvious to the reader this boy is very bright, filled with common sense and a good dose of intuition.
The story is told by Bethia, the twelve-year-old daughter of the white minister. Bethia’s personality and characteristics match Caleb’s. The author allows us to see how the two, equally matched children, fare as they grow and move into maturity. This comparison raised many issues.
Bethia and Caleb share a love of learning. This can be seen when they first meet. Caleb teaches Bethia all about the plants, and other living creatures that inhabit the island. But what Bethia truly longs for, a formal education, is denied her based solely on her sex. Caleb, on the other hand, is offered the opportunity to study at Harvard. Caleb sees this as a way to help his people deal with the growing influence of white settlers into the Native American world.
There was so much to talk about as our club members reviewed the book. Education for females and minorities and the deep love and importance of education were discussed thoroughly. We also chatted about how the lives of people turn out. We noted that sometimes the bad guys get lucky breaks they don’t deserve. In other words, the story ends realistically. Not every character gets what they deserve, nor live happily ever after.
The life and writings of Geraldine Brooks are certainly worth looking at. My friend succeeded in convincing many of us to read more of Geraldine Brooks. I’m going to read March, the story of Louisa May Alcott’s fictional father in Little Women. I wonder how Geraldine Brooks will see this man. Have you read a Geraldine Brooks story?