Like a dummy, I didn't realize that Caleb's Crossing is based on a true story until the moment I finished it. I guess I should have realized, it being Brooks. It's about a young girl who lives on an island - Martha's Vineyard, in the early 17th century. Martha's Vineyard had a large native american population back then. Some white settlers came and mostly had a harmonious relationship with them, although a lot of colonization was going on. Bethia Mayfield befriends a Wampanoag boy about her age, Caleb. He is eventually educated by her father, who is teaching her brother too. He stopped teaching her around age 9 because girls don't need no book learnin', but she managed to educate herself by cleaning nearby the lessons.
|Imagined portrait of Caleb via|
Anne Bradstreet is a oblique character in the book - she's the aunt of a student in Cambridge and Bethia is familiar with her work. I love some of Bradstreet's poetry, and even almost got a line tattooed on my arm before I wimped out. Turns out Bradstreet is a bit of a problematic figure, in terms of her feminism or not - being very much a product of her time, that's certainly understandable. And that's why it's practically impossible to get a tattoo.
Ultimately I wish I'd read Caleb's Crossing with my eyes, parts really dragged for me but I think that was a matter of the audio. As usual, Brooks's language is poetic and beautiful. She utilized archaic terms in Bethia's journal-like entries which really allowed me to feel immersed in this time period I'm not very familiar with.