2011 Historical Fiction
Set in the latter 1600’s, Caleb’s Crossing took the highly intellectual women in my book club on an engaging adventure all our own. Mrs. Brooks’ vivid account of the life of Bethia Mayfield, a Puritan young girl growing up in the newly settled Martha’s Vineyard, only unsettled our hearts and minds as we were forced to deal with what life for us would be like in her shoes.
Our rational and emotional facilities were brought to battle as we were theologically challenged along with Bethia, who was daughter of a strict Calvinist minister and missionary to the Native Wampanoag tribe. Even though she was intellectually superior to many of the men in her life, Bethia was prohibited from the same education as her siblings, gleaning what she could from behind the curtains of oppression, but respect for God, her family, and the life she was handed.
Bethia’s intense hunger for knowledge and freedom were matched only by the pure love she had for Caleb, the young son of a chieftain. Their relationships fed each other’s needs. Caleb taught Bethia the old magic of the island and Bethia walked Caleb through the settlers new way of life.
Eventually Caleb and Bethia cross new waters to an unexpected turn of events. Caleb fights for his life trying to build a bridge between two cultures, becoming the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. Bethia foregoes her freedom to walk alongside Caleb in hopes of gaining an education that was prohibited to women. In the end, Bethia gains a life she never desired but ultimately came to love.
Hold on during this exploration as each of your senses will be stimulated by the beauty and eloquence of Geraldine Brooks’ writing. This masterpiece will leave you smiling, struggling, wishing, hoping, fighting, loving, and many times rewriting your own ending to the story as you and your friends debate the struggle between the life we want and the life we know.
p.16 The more I allowed that I had learned what my oder brother could not, the more it began to vex father… “Bethia, why do you strive so hard to quit the place in which God has set you?” His voice was gentle, not angry. “Your path is not your brother’s, it cannot be. Women are not made like men. You risk addling your brain by thinking on scholarly matters that need not concern you. I care only for your present health and your future happiness. It is not seemly for a wife to know more than her husband…”
p.18 He turned on his heel and went back into the house. Father followed him. They were both of them angry that day, but not so angry as I. I was so eaten with it that I broke the handle on the churn from thumping it so hard. I still have the scar on my palm where the splintering wood tore my flesh. Mother bound up my hand and salved it. When I looked into her kind, tired eyes I felt ashamed. I would not, for all the world, have her think that I belittled her, in thought or word. As if she knew my mind, she smiled at me, and held my bound hand to her lips. “God does all things for a reason, Bethia. If he gave you a quick mind, be sure of it, he wants you to use it. It is your task to discern how to use it for his glory.” She did not have to add the words: “and not merely for your own.” I heard them in my heart.
Lisa’s Favorite pages: p. 16, 18-21, 41, 52, 57, 66, 74, 136, 148, 189, 191, 193, 255, 257, 295, and 300
“May you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” (II Peter 3:18). – LVW