As much as I love my Kindle, when an author I absolutely love comes out with a new book, I plunk down the cash for the hardcover version with nary a tremor of apprehension. I’m already convinced I will love it and therefore I must have its colored spine to gaze at – from one of my many bookshelves – for the next forty years. Kindle books are convenient but they’ve no colored spines for gazing or pages for smelling or heft for holding.
So when I recently scurried down to my fave indie bookstore, Warwicks, to hear Geraldine Brooks speak and to get her new book, Caleb’s Crossing, I wanted to drop everything I was reading at the moment to devour it, the minute I got home. I was hoping for the magnetic pull of Year of Wonders and the dreadful pathos of March (for which she won the Pulitzer) and sheer mastery of People of the Book, and I guess you can already tell, that’s not exactly what happened.
I liked this book. A lot. But it didn’t capture me like her other books have. I can’t see reading it again anytime soon. And I don’t know why. It must be me. She’s a brilliant wordsmith, so I am thinking it must just be me. I loved hearing her talk about this book – she’s a delight to listen to – and I am in awe of her ability to capture a story with pinpoint accuracy. She based this tale on an actual event, and I’m sure she stuck to the facts, and in that awe I must remember that a true historian doesn’t mess with the truth to make the story more interesting. But I found Caleb’s story sad, and the narrator Bethia’s story sad. And not in the way I was moved to tears by Brooks’ other protagonists in other novels. There is a sadness that pulls me to the heart of a character and then there’s a sadness that makes me want to back away. I didn’t emotionally connect with the characters in this book. My fault, I’m sure.
And the most ridiculous thing? I wanted Caleb (the first Native American to attend Harvard) and Bethia (a young Colonial woman with no rights and a giving heart no one respects) to run away and elope. That didn’t happen in real life, so it couldn’t happen here.
But I wish it had.
I will still buy Geraldine Brooks’ books in hardcover. I will keep this one she signed for me. And maybe I will read it again. I’ve read Year of Wonders three or four times. Perhaps a second reading will give me the insight I lack at this moment in my life to appreciate Bethia’s and Caleb’s choices.
Anyone out there ever read a book where you’d change the ending if you could?
p.s. Got something really fun starting on Monday. Hope to see you then. . .