Geraldine Brooks historical novel, Caleb’s Crossing, tells the story of Calvinist pioneers who came to settle Martha’s Vineyard in the latter part of the 1600 century. Pristine land was acquired through unfair negotiations with the native people who had no idea of the white man’s concept of ownership. Then came the imposition of their Puritan views and religion which eventually led to the genocide of the Wampanoag tribe. It is also the story of Bethia Mayfield, the Calvinist minister’s daughter, who must fight to satisfy her quest for knowledge—education for women being taboo in the Puritan scheme of things. She befriends Caleb, the chieftain’s son,because he is native, is considered undeserving of education. But the English back in the old country want to assert their Judeo-Christian compassion by helping to fund the schooling of Indian children. Caleb’s brilliance becomes apparent and he is chosen to cross the river to the mainland to further his learning. He quickly outshines the non-native students in all subjects, but by doing so he must forsake his own native religion. There is also a price to be paid to cross over to the other side?
A fascinating read except for the abrupt ending where fifty years of Bethia’s life are told in just a few pages. Quite disappointing when her earlier life was told in such detail.