Could so easily have been 4 stars but alas . . .

Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

Another book I have to make up my own ending for! Drats!


I loved the first 7/8's of this historical adventure set on the east coast of Massachusetts in the late 1600's. Our heroine, Bethia, is a puritan of sorts. Her father is a devout minister to their community on an island (now Martha's Vineyard) and has made it his mission to bring Christianity to the natives, the Wampanoag. Free spirited Bethia would rather ride her horse at break neck speed around the island in a totally unladylike manner and listen in as her father teaches Wampanoag, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. She is unable to study herself as an educated woman would only be a difficulty for her husband. But Bethia's quick mind and intense love of learning (opposite of her brother) drive her to find knowledge wherever she can get it.


One day on her wanderings around the island, she meets a young Wampanoag boy of her age and surprises him by being able to speak to him in his language. They become beloved friends, meeting daily and teaching each other their language. The boy, Caleb, as she names him (he calls her Storm Eyes) is so brilliant that he soon learns English without an accent. 


She has to keep her friendship secret because her father, brother, and grandfather would never understand. Likewise, Caleb must hide his relationship with her from his uncle, Tequamuck, a powerful shaman thought to practice black magic by the Puritans.  That Bethia believes Tequamuck's power is an equal to her godly beliefs, is a secret she must keep. Tequamuck forsees the future and his people's place in it.


Geraldine Brooks's way with words and the Puritan dialect she writes is perfect. That I listened to it on audio ( Jennifer Ehle reads it) only added to the experience. I loved the language and found myself easily catching the rhythmical way of talking -- I own it.


Time passes, and Caleb comes to live with Bethia's family so her father can tutor him and eventually Caleb ends up in Cambridge on the mainland at a school where he is tutored so he can be admitted to the Indian College at Harvard. Bethia is there, too, as a servant to the headmaster of the boy's school.


Brooks seizes the opportunity to prelude the disasters that will befall all of the Indians in the future by what she does to Caleb and his best friend, Joel, another Indian scholar. Their fate is horrible and I truly think it could have been left out. The story was already told and we could see the future that was coming. I guess I'm just a sucker for a happy ending.


I know that it is an unfair criticism of a book to not like it because of the ending but I am writing my thoughts about my reading experience. If I were to review simply on the merit of the writing and the storyline I would rate it higher.