Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Another Historical Novel by Brooks

I read Caleb’s Crossing in a weekend.  There’s something to be said for a cold Winter weekend when no deadlines loom and there’s nothing on the calendar, to sit and read, even all night. That’s how I read Geraldine Brooks’ book. That long span of reading only made the good book even better. I’ve always admired the way Brooks imagines a life, a tale, a time in history, and weaves a story around it. This story takes place on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1660s, when the island was a place where people went to live life the way they wanted to leave it. I liked the story of the Native American who made it into Harvard, the descriptions of the way of life in Cambridge and the island, the interaction between the indigenous people and the European settlers and all the philosophical thought on that subject, as well as the Biblical quotes about how to live life best. I loved the quotes about God and his plan: “Yet all knowledge comes from God, who creates and governs all things. You will find many excellent divine moral truths in the works we will study together in this place—in Plato, in Plutarch and in Seneca . . . we study no art for its own sake but to help us restore our connection with the divine mind.” I’ve always believed that. The main character was Bethia, raised to be a mother and wife, but thriving on stolen knowledge, whose life takes unexpected turns. In the end, she writes “I am not a hero. Life has not required it of me. But neither will I go to my grave a coward, silent about what I did, and what it cost. So, let these last pages be my death song—even if at the end it is no paean, but as it must be: a dissonant and tragical lament.”

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