Our last Book Club book was Caleb's Crossing. I didn't get to go and discuss it because Trouble ended up having a play off game that night, and what kind of mother would I be if I ditched the game to go to Book Club? They did end up winning, but were eliminated in the next game which I missed because I was at Football Camp with LT. Have I mentioned that I never played or watched sports in my life until I had kids?
Caleb's Crossing takes place in Martha's Vineyard in the 1660s. I adored Bethia, the narrator. The story follows her journey from childhood to young woman. A naturally subsurvient and submissive woman Bethia is not. She is constantly struggling to quench her thirst for education and knowledge in a society that does not deem it appropriate. Early on, she befriends Caleb, a member of the local Indian tribe. She takes it on as her personal quest to turn him from his idiolistic gods to the Christian God. As the daughter of a minister, she sees it as her duty to try to convert him from his hedonistic ways. But Caleb is the nephew of a powerful shaman, and he asks questions that are difficult for Bethia to answer. As she comes to know and understand Caleb and his tribe, she realizes that they are not the savages she was taught to fear. She even finds herself curious about their gods and attracted to their spiritual rituals.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes Bethia's family, and as the devout daughter of a minister, she believes she's being punished for her sins.The depth and assurity of her guilt was difficult for me to understand, though I'm sure Bookgirl would be able to empathsize better than I. I know from my study of history how brave and independent a character Bethia is for this time in history. I can't imagine how I ever would have survived in such a time. They probably would have burned me at the stake if I didn't die in childbirth first.
Bethia's father takes Caleb into his home and schools him and another Indian, preparing them for college at Harvard along with his own son. The novel is historical fiction and is based on the real history of some of the first Indians to attend Harvard University. The goal was to convert and educate them, so they could assist with the conversion of others. You may be wondering why Caleb would go along with such a thing. He is as strong-willed and independent as Bethia and has his own reasons for obtaining his degree, that are not necessarily inline with those of Bethia's father.
On a personal note, shortly after reading this book we took our trip to Virginia ,which I wrote about in my previous post. Part of the Ghost Tour of Williamsburg took place at the College of William and Mary, the second oldest college in the U.S. What was the first, you may ask? Harvard, of course. And like Harvard, William and Mary also educated Indians and our ghost tour took us by the dorm where they slept. One of the stories was about the Indian who used to sneak out of his third floor window and run the grounds in the middle of the night until one morning he was discovered dead. They say his ghost can still be seen running the campus grounds at night.