Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks inspired “so-so” reactions from our book group, but because we learned so much from reading it, there was much to discuss. We determined that the novel’s key themes are intolerance, the role of women, race equality, the wonder of nature, and the importance of education.
- The story is told through Bethia’s journal entries over her long life, with language appropriate for the 1660s. At first this was strange, but the reader falls into the rhythm and can figure out strange words through context clues.
- We kept coming back to the role of women, then and now. For a couple of participants, before graduating grammar school they had to sew their own graduation dresses and boys had to take shop class. These strict gender roles seem so different now, just 60 years later, so it is amazing to think how much things have changed for American women since Bethia’s time.
- Caleb’s vision of the future is so sad because it comes true. It is also tragic that after all of his hard work and sacrifice, he doesn’t survive.
- Bethia + Caleb = love? The title of the book is misleading. This is Bethia’s story, not Caleb’s. Many of us read the book expecting Bethia and Caleb to marry in the end. Yet this is very far from what happens. Why did we assume that it would follow this familiar plotline?
- What constitutes an education? What constitutes an educated person? Formal schooling isn’t the only factor. We discussed today’s education system and some of its flaws. Are Americans today historically illiterate?
This novel is historical fiction at its best. The thoroughly authentic world Brooks created transported us to another place, even if it wasn’t a place we particularly enjoyed visiting. The discussion allowed us to comment on the novel but also to relate its themes to today, so this book is recommended for book clubs.
Next month we are reading A Grown-up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson. Pick up a copy and join us on December 10 at 11 a.m.