3.5** - the beginning of the novel was hard for me to get into and I found the second half of the book much more interesting. Bethia is a missionary's daughter who is different from most women of the time in that she is always seeking knowledge and is excited by learning. She listens in on her brother's lessons and picks up copious amounts of information that she must then keep hidden from the men in her family. I'm not sure if I completely believe in how quickly she learned without much direct instruction.
She suffers a lot through out the book and those are the moments when she is very real to the reader. Her conflicting feelings around religion made sense; I appreciated that she could question her faith and the black and white rules around salvation.
Although the title of the book implies that the story will center on Caleb, I didn't feel that he was the focus for the author. Caleb is the son of a local Wampanoag leader who becomes a confidante and friend to Bethia. Eventually he becomes a student of Bethia's father in preparation to entering Harvard. I thought that Caleb had much more that could have been explored- he comes from a world of living outdoors in sync with nature and must adapt to a dirty, oppressive life inside college walls. I would have liked more as to how he dealt with this shift and what caused him to continue forward.
The one thing I wish I had been better prepared for is the immense sadness and tragedy that follows all of the characters throughout their lives. Overall it was good but not great.