Autumn Reading: ‘Caleb’s Crossing’ by Geraldine Brooks
In the first flush of excitement at being out of graduate school, I read a good deal of unabashedly fluffy stuff this past autumn. I’ll be posting reviewlets of these books for the next few weeks.
Geraldine Brooks appears to have a gift for writing pleasing books. They aren’t extraordinary, they aren’t fall-off-your-chair-amazing, and they certainly aren’t anywhere in the realm of bad, they are simply lovely. To very pleasant effect, her books combine an enjoyable writing style with intense historical research (which is, of course, so well-done that you don’t even notice how much effort she must have put into it) and plain old good plotting.
Her most recent endeavor, Caleb’s Crossing, fit firmly into my idea of what a Geraldine Brooks book is: it was a fast read, but a thoroughly enjoyable one that made me seriously think about an unfamiliar, specific historic moment. In this case, Brooks tackles the first native American graduate of Harvard University. We don’t actually know much about him or his background, so Brooks skillfully takes up his life with fictional aplomb and tells a perfectly charming story in the process.
While Brooks’ the research is laudable—it imbues the story with a realism so flawless you don’t even pause to notice it, but just accept where you are—I found her decision to take the narration away from her subject and place it in the hands of a fictional missionary’s daughter (with plenty of thoughts of her own) much more remarkable. This fresh voice rings far more true than I think the Harvard student’s would have and provides an interesting counterpoint of perspective on the story.
On the whole, Caleb’s Crossing was one of the better “fluffy” books I read this past autumn and cemented Brooks in my mind as an author always worth looking forward to.