Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks


Audiobook.  Starting from one unadorned fact, that a Native American graduated from Harvard in 1665, Geraldine Brooks has spun a complex and satisfying story.  The story is told by Bethia, daughter of an enlightened minister who cares for the tribe on their island.  Bethia, as a young girl, befriends an Indian of her own age who shows her the best place to catch mussels and gives her other useful skills.  They each learn the other's languages, Bethia gives him a book, and eventually he becomes Caleb and goes off to Harvard.  Bethia records her anguish and confesses the sins which she believes caused the death of her mother.  Well, they were Puritans, after all.  These sins involve childhood roaming throughout the island with her secret friend, and once creeping into a tribal ritual and partaking of the hallucination-inducing concoction reserved for the holy man/medicine man of the tribe.

According to the review in the New York Times by Jane Smiley, Brooks has the language down perfectly.  Historical references put the story in context.  Bethia's family has broken away from Winthrop's Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Bethia manages to read the transcript of the trial of Anne Hutchinson, the woman who had a such a following in the colony that she was seen as a threat to those in power.   She was eventually banished and for a time accepted Roger Williams' invitation to move with her followers to Rhode Island.  

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