Geraldine Brooks has crafted a wonderful historical novel in Caleb’s Crossing. Set in 1660’s New England, it’s the fictional story of the first Native American, Caleb Cheeshateaumauk, to graduate from Harvard College.
The story is told in flashbacks, from the point of view of Bethia Mayfield, daughter of a Martha’s Vineyard preacher. Bethia and Caleb meet as children on the island, and become clandestine friends. She is as hungry for an education as he is, but in New England of that time education for girls was considered frivolous. In their teen years, both Caleb and Bethia find themselves at Harvard in Cambridge: Caleb as a respected student, Bethia as an indentured servant. Events largely beyond their control shape their lives, and as Bethia looks back, she tells the story in verbal snapshots.
Author Geraldine Brooks has taken the few facts known about Caleb, and woven a compelling story where the New England of that time, and her characters as well, seem to come alive. Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel March, about the Civil War.