New York Times book review of Caleb’s Crossing

Jane Smiley reviews Caleb’s Crossing for the New York Times books review. The full review will appear on May 15th.

“…The triumph of Caleb’s Crossing is that Bethia succeeds as a convincing woman of her time, and also in communicating across centuries of change in circumstance, custom and language. She tells a story that is suspenseful and involving. It is also a story that is tragically recognizable and deeply sad….

Caleb’s Crossing could not be more enlightening and involving. Beautifully written from beginning to end, it reconfirms Geraldine Brooks’s reputation as one of our most supple and insightful novelists…

Read the full review here >


  • A book I had to finish!
    However some words had me puzzling, and thought maybe a glossary would have helped. Such words as: lappity (p62), chousing (p246) and hidels (p240). Other unusal words eg., bevins, bevers, mushoons, shallop, dimmet, somewhen and my favourite, “the necessary” I could work out from context.
    Will try googling unknowns and see what I get.
    Thank you, Marion Douglas.

    May 25, 2011
  • Vicky Brantley

    I just finished reading Caleb’s Crossing, and I feel as if I have transcended time and entered into a period of history, not unlike our own times, in which some people are misunderstood and prejudged simply on the basis of gender or race or difference. What a remarkable story this is! All of Geraldine Brooks’ novels are engaging and well-written and meet the goal of all good ficiton as they transport the reader into another existence and leave one better for the travel.

    May 26, 2011
  • Julie

    I too, loved this book but felt a glossary would have been a great idea. While I really appreciated the language used, it was actually very refreshing, I would never have figured out that “tegs” were sheep! Thankyou again Ms Brooks for another wonderful read.

    July 5, 2011
  • Jan Rockwell

    Caleb’s Crossing is truly exceptional in language, imagery, historical significance and most memorable characters and story. Based on Kindle’s advice that I might like it, I Ioaded Caleb’s Crossing having no idea of how this story would transfix me. Years ago, my grandmother, Lora Inez Atherton, hand wrote out geneologies for our family. I had always wondered, on the Atherton side of the family, where the unusual names Patience, Watching, Rest, Increase, Thankful, Consider, and Hope had come from. We knew Hope had attended Harvard but didn’t even realize Hope was male, until reading Caleb’s Crossing! Coming across this “Atherton family advice” that explained the names of most of these boys, was a thrilling moment. While I know much of this novel is fiction, it is clearly, as we know, based on fact as well. I hope Ms. Brooks will share where the Hope Atherton information came from; I will happily share my grandmother’s handwritten geneology. Thank you.

    July 23, 2011
    • The source was in the first instance Sibley’s Harvard Graduates. That led me to a an out-of-print monograph entitled, I think, “Hope Atherton, His LIfe and Times.”

      December 12, 2011
  • Sybil Riemensnider

    I read this book first, then Years of Wonder, and just finished People of the Book, all need glossaries! It would help the reader understand the terminology of the era better. Next to read–March. Love them all.

    August 18, 2011
    • I think you’re right. I will certainly provide one on this website for my next novel.

      December 12, 2011
  • jenny kennedy,south africa

    Calebs Crossing-beautifully written with such depth and passion,you feel you want to be with the characters,to touch and talk to them.You get a wonderful sense of the Island and its isolation and unspoilt vegetation and beaches.What a wonderful place to grow-up and develop into the amazing people they all became.Lots of sadness and pain throughout the story,but the spirit and will survived.Its a book I shall never ever forget .

    August 30, 2011
  • Julie Mornar

    I listened to Geraldine’s interview on Public Radio and the same day went to the library to check it out. I finished the book within two days. I could not put it down. I have now checked out Years of Wonder and March. You are one of my favorite authors. I love books that are provide our history.

    September 10, 2011
  • Gail Arena

    Questions re “caleb’s Crossing”
    1. is there a glossary of the archaic vocabulary used?
    2. is the a reader’s guide available for download?
    Thank you

    October 26, 2011
    • Thanks for the questions. Unfortunately I did not make a glossary. I will do so for my next novel as many readers have asked about it. There will be a readers guide released with the paperback edition next May.

      December 12, 2011
  • Pamela

    I thought Caleb’s Crossing was brilliant. I was successfully transcended to a different time. I throughly enjoy Ms. Brooks’ style and I thought the archaic wording within some of the text was appropriate. I look forward to more of her work.
    I also find it interesting that Anne Makepeace has filmed a movie/documentary on the Wampanoag Indians about their language that has been revived. Perhaps Ms. Brooks’ interest in this subject has awoken some of their ancestors!
    I think they have a lot to teach us.

    November 16, 2011
  • drbarb

    I loved this book! I am a scholar 19th century women and I have had to read various writtings from them. I began to sound like the women after a while. I wonder if you ever lapse into the character’s language… In any event, I loved the book and was thirsty for it when I was not reading it. I liked the way in foreshadowed events to come. I wept at the end: an unusual thing for me to do.

    February 1, 2012
    • Yes, actually. I found myself reproving my sons: “You are vexing me with your ungirt behaviors!”

      September 22, 2014
  • johndillon

    see no need fo glossary. let the reader work a little to fit the word into the context of the sentence and paragraph.

    what is the hurry in reading a book which has so much to tell about the quakers, the use of patents to buy land, the the white man’s gift of small pox to the Indians aka native american, the multiple gods of caleb’s people vs the demanding single god of the intolerant anglicans, and sadist treatment of women by the quote leaders of the community.beyond the idea the vineyard was separated from the mainland as was the red sea parted for the jews to escape, and why did god allow the snake in the garden, asked caleb , etal.; no need glossary.

    May 6, 2012
  • Pat Fromme

    I felt completely transported to another time and place by Caleb’s Crossing and The People of the Book. I plan to read your other books as well. Footnotes would have helped with some of the vocabulary. But I love these books and have recommended them to friends. Thanks for your writing.

    May 25, 2012

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book it was recommended to me by a friend i will make sure i read some more of Geraldine’s books have to agree with the comments on language would be nice to know what some of the word mean

    May 27, 2012
    • Next time I will put a glossary, at least on line…

      September 22, 2014
  • Viki Adik

    I enjoyed the way the book transported me to early Colonial days. Please explain why “salvages” is continually used instead of “savages”. Also, was the course of study at Cambridge taken from historical records? Did the students truly speak in Latin, Greek & Hebrew?

    July 10, 2012
    • Salvages is the word the English settlers on the Island most often used in the 17th century. And yes, the course of study was exactly as portrayed in the novel.

      July 1, 2013
  • GR

    Caleb’s Crossing is a masterpiece.

    October 6, 2012
  • Betty Glasscock

    I would like a glossary to better understand the story. I did not get a Reader’s Guide when I ordered books for my Book Club but will try to locate one. Hope it will be helpful.

    October 23, 2012
  • Marianne Head

    A wonderful book. So convincing, very real. I have just read it , having borrowed it from the library on the Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria. The best book I have read in ages.
    I have also bought myself a copy today, as it is a book I look forward to reading many times in the future.

    November 23, 2012
  • Marianne Head

    The best book I have read for ages. It would make a wonderful film if done very sensitively.

    December 31, 2012
  • Marigold Badcock

    A masterly piece of writing that held me enthralled. I couldn’t put the book down. Through Bethia’s journal we are given an insight the historical event of her Indian friend Caleb becoming the first Wampanoag to receive a degree from Havard College. Geraldine Brooks is to be congratulated on the way she has taken a little known historical figure and developed a story that will delight any lover of historical fiction. Brook’s characters are real, living, breathing people and she took me inside Bethia’s mind with subtle skill, so that I was there with her, experiencing everyday life and the many hardships and frustrations that faced this young, intelligent girl. Most of all I am full of admiration of Brook’s use of dialect and narration which transported me to life as a young Puritan on Martha’s Vineyard so effectively. I would love to know where and how the inspiration and knowledge of this 17th century language was acquired.

    January 12, 2013
  • Marianne Head

    I have just heard an inteview with Steven Spielburg on the radio and he was looking for a love story to film. Calebs Crossing would be the perfect story for him.

    January 29, 2013

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