by Geraldine Brooks
Sycamore Public Library call number: FIC BRO
in large type: LP FIC BRO
This novel is woven around the true story of Caleb Cheeshahtecaumauk from The Wompanaak Tribe located in Martha’s Vineyard. Caleb was born around 1646 five years after a small group of English settlers arrived on the island. Thomas Mayhew, one of the English settlers, purchased land from the tribe and his son set up a day school with 30 Indian pupils with the intention of educating them and converting them to Christianity. Little is known about Caleb except that he did attend and graduate from Harvard.
This story begins in l660 and is told by Bethia Mayfield, age 15. Her father is Thomas Mayfield, the minister who is educating several local Indians and her brother in preparation for Harvard. Bethia has a great hunger for learning and she secretly listens in on the lessons her father is teaching in Greek and Latin and learns the languages easily. She also learns the language of the Indians.
Bethia begins her story by recounting the time she claims was her “fall” three years earlier when she was 12 years old. On many occasions she would saddle her horse and ride around the beautiful island. It is on one of these trips that she encounters a young Indian boy who is astonished that she can speak his language. They begin a secret friendship and meet over the next few years. She talks to him of her Christian faith; he talks her of his Indian beliefs. Their conversations sometimes trouble her. She knows what she has been taught but is drawn in some strange way to his beliefs. Caleb later attends her father’s school and when he completes his studies he leaves the mainland, along with her brother, for preparations to attend Harvard. Bethia must join them as she has become an indentured servant due to changes in her family situation. The story continues over the next number of years as she tries to reconcile the two worlds.
At first the story seemed a little slow but as I got into it I loved it. The words flowed together and I got caught up in Bethia’s life and struggles. I highly recommend this book.
Submitted by: Nancy
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction