Geraldine Brooks writes books of fiction around unknown fragments of history and her readers are captivated. This book recounts the story of Caleb Cheeshahleaumuck, a Native American who graduated from Harvard College in the 17th century. His life is imagined through the eyes of young Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Puritan minister and scholar who lives on what is to be known as Martha's Vinyard.
Bethia is bright and longs to be educated, but finds in the society of the times, girls are to be housekeepers, wives and mothers and are not to "speak up". Caleb and Bethia forge an enduring friendship lasting through the clash of two cultures, tragedies, death and for Bethia, a suitable marriage.
I look for books which bring to light heroic women in the context of major events and times. With her sensory prose of setting, convincing characters and the memorable language of the period, Brooks has written an insightful and unforgettable novel of our colonial past.
Recommended by Ruth Ann Johnson