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Geraldine Brooksis the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize winningMarchand the international bestsellersCaleb s Crossing, People of the Book, andYear of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction worksNine Parts of DesireandForeign Correspondence.Her most recent novel, Caleb s Crossing, was the winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction and theChristianity TodayBook Award, and was a finalist for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha s Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz."
In 1665 a young man from Marthas Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. This fragment of history is the basis for the latest novel by Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks. Calebs Crossing revolves around this young mans spiritual and intellectual elevation in the eyes of English society. Bearing witness to this civilising project is a minister s daughter, Bethia Mayfield, who, on the basis of gender, is denied the education she craves. Bethia and Caleb the son of a chieftain meet in the wilds of Marthas Vineyard as children and their clandestine but innocent encounters prove to be largely and mutually influential. Bethia teaches Caleb to read and strives to convert him to her Christian god, but he has just as much to offer her, as he shares island secrets and his native language. Caleb s wide eyed yet witty questioning of the Christian faith is compelling; their soulful and sweet exchanges are at the forefront of a quietly escalating tension between the native inhabitants and the gradually encroaching colonialists. As Bethia and Caleb grow older the divisions between them become more apparent; both are forced to subdue their natures in different ways. Bethias impending indenture as a housekeeper sparks a disagreement, which illuminates the diminishing options for both their futures. Such conversations between the pair evoke strong emotion and are a welcome release from the repression of Puritanism that dictates their behaviour. Reminiscent of Brooks debut novel Year of Wonders, wherein a bubonic plague outbreak is chronicled by an intelligent young maid, her latest fictional history sees Bethia grow from an uncertain minister s daughter-- striving for utter purity but plagued by doubt and failings--to a determined young woman who learns to exercise her intellect in whichever way she can. Bethias observation of Calebs triumphs and tribulations on the road to Harvard exposes both a warmth and distance between the pair. Her determination to document the role she plays in his journey bespeaks a desire for recognition. Calebs Crossing depicts the harshness of pioneer life and the rigidity of puritan values, tempered by the compassion and kindness of individuals. As the clash between cultures unfolds, loss of life, language and culture is a tragic inevitability that Bethia bears witness to on a personal level. Through the observations of a well-drawn protagonist Brooks conjures the disenfranchisement of an entire people. (See interview, page 38.) Portia Lindsay works at the UNSW Bookshop in Sydney
Praise for Caleb's Crossing Caleb s Crossing could not be more enlightening and involving. Beautifully written from beginning to end, it reconfirms Geraldine Brooks s reputation as one of our most supple and involving novelists. Jane Smiley, The New York Times Book Review Brooks filters the early colonial era through the eyes of a minister s daughter growing up on the island known today as Martha s Vineyard [Bethia s] voice rendered by Brooks with exacting attention to the language and rhythm of the seventeenth century is captivatingly true to her time. The New Yorker A dazzling act of the imagination. . .Brooks takes the few known facts about the real Caleb, and builds them into a beautifully realized and thoroughly readable tale this is intimate historical fiction, observing even the most acute sufferings and smallest heroic gestures in the context of major events. Matthew Gilbert, The Boston Globe In Bethia, Geraldine Brooks has created a multidimensional, inspiring yet unpredictable character Bethia s forbearance, her quiet insistence, the way she creates her life using the best of whatever is handed to her, puts the struggles of American women today in perspective. Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times Original and compelling. . .[Brooks characters] struggle every waking moment with spiritual questions that are as real and unending as the punishing New England winters. Paul Chaat Smith, The Washington Post "