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Book review: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing tells the story of Caleb Cheeshateaumauk, the first native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665 through the eyes of his friend Bethia, the daughter of an English minister who educates Caleb.

In a way, it is both Bethia and Caleb who make crossings – Caleb from his traditional lifestyle and Bethia from the confines women faced at the time due to their gender and religion.

The two developed a friendship as children that provided a comfort as they left the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

The story does not tell of uncomplicated triumph for either Caleb or Bethia – the experiences of both were full of ambiguity and complexity. In some ways, their transitions proved successful but each was well aware of what they were leaving behind to make their crossings.

It is clear that a high level of research was behind Brooks’ novel, and an awareness of the beauty and value of culture and tradition for native Americans. It was interesting to read about those traditions, as I had little knowledge of them previously.

This is yet another excellent read by Brooks, whose writing I will continue to seek as it never disappoints.

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