Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Book Corner: Caleb's Crossing

This past week I have had the pleasure of losing myself in 17th century New England through the lyrical voice of Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks' new novel 'Caleb's Crossing'.

This offering is a thought provoking read about the meeting of two cultures, namely the English Puritan settlers and the Native American tribes of Martha's Vineyard. The story takes place through the eyes of young Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of the island's minister, and her interaction with both the island itself and a young Native American boy she names Caleb. As their stories become more closely entwined over the years and Caleb makes the crossing from his world to hers Bethia begins to wonder whether the part she played was for good or evil and how she will be judged for the deeds of her life. 
This tale draws out the elements of interaction between old worlds and new; both in terms of settlers and native peoples, and also the roles of men and women. Learning and education are also highlighted as Caleb attends Harvard University, and hungry for knowledge Bethia must hide her desire to feed her mind, and sacrifice much in the journey. Next time I encounter some 'old world' myself I will be thinking of what I could learn from them, before I impose my own way, thoughts and emotions onto something that could be perfect just as it is, and perhaps enrich my life.
Tragedies abound in 'Caleb's Crossing', death, sickness and back breaking work are never far from the protagonist and she seeks to find God's message as each unfolds, believing that she is being punished for her sins. The hardships Bethia faces in her personal life are echoed in the role of the sometimes harsh seasons that pass on the island and the new mainland world Bethia finds herself in. 
Of late I have found myself struggling with immersing myself in fiction, however the realistic painting that Geraldine Brooks gives through the eyes of Bethia captured me within the first chapter and kept me prisoner until the last word. Bethia is a modern day woman in a pilgrim's world, and her fight for education and justice in a world not easily giving of either is an inspiration. 'Caleb's Crossing' left me reflecting on how lucky we are to have our freedom of speech and ability to seek education as women, and the still unfortunate existence of less liberated places still on earth. 

This is truly a book that you won't be able to put down, and one that will stay with you long after the final page.

"My hands will be engaged in menial tasks - but my mind...my mind will be free."
(page 277).

This is one for the bookshelf dear reader.


  1. interesting! this sounds so different than the books that i normally read but i would like to give it a try :)

  2. I love Geraldine Brooks! I couldn't put March down - I will definitely check out Caleb's Crossing. Thanks for the review and recommendation :)

  3. really interesting, and i'm so out of it i've never even heard of it...i'll have to check it out! :)