The Orenda

The Orenda

Paperback | February 25, 2014


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A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda  opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation's great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

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The Orenda

Paperback | February 25, 2014
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A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda  opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation's great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are neve...

Joseph Boyden 's first novel, Three Day Road , was selected for the Today Show Book Club, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor Gene...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:512 pages, 9.11 × 6.06 × 1.42 inPublished:February 25, 2014Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143174169

ISBN - 13:9780143174165

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from A strong, heartfelt novel I struggled a little to get into the book, but once I did, I didn't want to put it down. This novel is very compelling and powerful. Joseph Boyden does an amazing job with the novel and tells a powerful story of a group of Canadian Indigenous peoples history through various lenses.
Date published: 2016-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from really interesting loved the way it was written in a three person perspective. Historical story telling is incredibly interesting.loved it!
Date published: 2015-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautiful read I can't believe this is available at $4.99 right now. I took this book with me as I travelled and could barely put it down. It is imaginative, gripping and unsettling at the same time.
Date published: 2015-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning Quite possibly the best book I've ever read. Though it took me a chapter or two to really get pulled in, once I was hooked I could not stop reading. I found myself wishing I could follow these characters throughout their entire lives and was desperately sad when it was over!
Date published: 2015-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow... 'Wow' is pretty much all I could say for a while after I turned the last page of this stunning novel. I was absolutely breathless by the end. The Orenda is a very serious piece of fiction; incredibly moving and exquisitely written. I don't think I've ever cried so much while reading a novel in my entire life, and yet what might have been depressing in any other story was so touching and perfect in this one because you have time to absorb. The way Boyden creates his characters and story lines gives you a chance to understand, which I think is the point of the entire thing. Everything somehow felt right by the end, even if you don't want it to be so. It becomes easy to accept, knowing how much love and research alone must have gone into this. Worlds, customs, and cultures criss-cross seamlessly in this story and by the end, not only does everything come full circle but the lines between one man's faith and tradition compared to another's is so blurred, you don't know anymore if you're reading the Christian man's account or the Huron's. Just incredible, honestly. I understand why this made the long list for Giller Prize (can't understand why it didn't win) amongst other well-deserved accolades. I highly recommend giving this a try, as well as anything else by Joseph Boyden!
Date published: 2014-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Orenda We own a cottage in Huronia (central Ontario, Canada), so for decades I have frolicked in the geographical area where the less-than-frolicsome historical events from which Joseph Boyden drew his inspiration took place. We canoe for pleasure on the same waters where First Nations people and the French engaged in life-saving trade and life-ending battles. We spend touristy afternoons at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a reconstruction of the 17th-Century French Jesuit mission where the peaceful coexistence and treacherous torture took place. Perhaps familiarity with the area and the history helps me to visualize this novel. Perhaps the life force?the orenda?of the time lives on through the Canadian Shield granite upon which those people walked. Whatever the reason, The Orenda resonates with me. Joseph Boyden uses three narrators to tell of the first encounters of Jesuit priests with the Wendat people and of the conflict between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and the Wendat (Huron). The three narrators cover all angles of the story: Snow Falls is an Iroquois teenager who becomes the victim of a revenge kidnapping by the Wendat, Bird is the Huron warrior who kidnapped her, and Christophe is a Jesuit priest who wants to convert these "sauvages." Boyden's story has no "good guys" or "bad guys." In their pursuit of revenge, conquest or conversion, all his wonderfully complex characters perpetrate acts of kindness and villainy. Thanks to Boyden's skill at characterization and his instinct to honour the integrity of a story, we understand his characters' acts of villainy in those circumstances, even if we could not condone them in today's society. We all know how the story ends?the big-picture story of First Nations and European relations in North America?and that knowing flows like an unseen undercurrent in the reader's mind. When Bird questions how the "crows" (the priests in the black wool cassocks) will effect his people, when Wendat warriors struggle with alcohol, and when Samuel de Champlain's men hand over the first gun, we know. It adds an eerie shadow effect to the reading. The only concern I have about this book?the only thing that made me stop reading and step outside of the magic of the story for a moment?is the use of present tense by Christophe in certain circumstances. I like present tense stories, and it worked beautifully for Snow Falls and Bird, who we imagine relating their version of events via the ancient oral storytelling traditions of the First Nations. Christophe, however, writes to his superior in France or in a diary. Him we imagine writing, so he needs past tense. When he is pulled under water by the sodden weight of his heavy wool cassock he could not have been scribbling notes at the time, so a first-person, present-tense account doesn't work. My stickiness about implausibilities of tenses aside, I admire this novel. Boyden never shies away from gory details, so when you read his books, expect the brutal truth. The Orenda has torture scenes that might alarm and repulse some delicate sensibilities. But then the true events of history often do. ________________ I recommend any book by Joseph Boyden. Through Black Spruce is my favourite. Three Day Road is harrowing but worthy.
Date published: 2014-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Wow. Excellent novel. First of all, it was extremely interesting to learn a bit about Canadian history. I loved how this story was told through 3 very different characters eyes, who have more in common with each other than they may think. Every character in this novel is excellent. My favourite was Christophe the Crow, for his unwavering belief and dedication to his faith. Jesuits were hardcore back then, and were often sent to the worst/most hazardous places. Gosling was also a very cool character indeed. There was a lot of talk about the 'torture' scenes in this book on the Canada Reads discussion, some people saying it wasn't necessary. How can it not be necessary when the torture was a part of the culture and accepted by all tribes? If you read a book about the Aztec society you would expect to read about a sacrifice, right? I feel that the torture scenes only made this book better, more true to cultural roots and more real. The novel left me with mixed feelings about how our ancestors settles/conquered this land, but I thoroughly enjoyed this read.
Date published: 2014-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spectacular read I couldn't put this book down. The story is powerful, raw, and drew me in effortlessly. I agree with a previous review that the beginning was a bit confusing, but that was only because I didn't realize that the story was told by 3 narrators. Once you are aware, it flows with ease. After finishing the book, I went back to reread with beginning. Highly recommend this spectacular book by a Canadian author!
Date published: 2014-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Historical Book This book was picked for our book club. I am so glad it was - the history from three points of view, the kidnapped girl (Iroquois), the Huron warrior and the "Crow" a Jesuit. Each person puts his/her point of view of what they think, how they act to various situations and the overall outcome. Europeans with their lack of hygiene, their bigoted opinion of any life different from their beliefs and almost wiping out of all aboriginals with their sicknesses, shows that we still have a long way to go to understanding the life of the aboriginals. Mother Earth was very important and the belief of how one should treat her was a way of life, which the Jesuits, especially the early ones, could not understand, they felt it was Satonic and needed to be eradicated. This book is a must read for an understanding of the times when Jesuits, early settlers were coming to Canada and their thoughts/beliefs.
Date published: 2014-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful Story Brilliant writing, allows us identify with the native Canadians, both Huron and Iroquois,.as well as the Jesuits who came to live among them. The writer pulls no punches in describing ritualistic torture, but gives new insights into the historical reasons for each step of the torture. We understand the motives of the Christian missionaries, their courage and their weaknesses. The three viewpoints are smoothly interconnected to hold us spellbound until the finish.
Date published: 2014-05-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Orenda Although I have not finished this book; only about 1/2 way, I'm not terribly impressed. I find it a struggle at times. I'm disappointed so far, especially since I had heard that "every Canadian must read this book." Perhaps it will pick up before the end but I prefer books to hold my interest all the way. I do know a fair amount about Native heritage so maybe that's the problem. The only new issue I have discovered is just how terribly cruel they were to EACH other i.e., torturing by removing eyesone at a time and taking two weeks to die. Maybe more North Americans should be aware of that aspect, since we are the ones who are always maligned. Would I recommend this book? Yes, if an individual is totally ignorant of historical facts.
Date published: 2014-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the read! The writing was captivating and literate. The characters were well developed and engaging. The story was hard to read in parts ( emotional and hard-hitting). I would definitely recommend this book.
Date published: 2014-04-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Orenda Once I begin a book I am commited to finishing that book otherwise I would never have finished this book. I think it was too repetitious. I mean really every time they spoke of Isaac they had to mention his stub of hands and how he got them. If they took the first 300 pages and condensed them into about 100 pages it would have been a much better book. It did not catch my attention until about the 300-350 page mark and then I did not want to put the book down. Maybe I know a lot about the native heritage that is what makes the difference for me. I do not know. But I found it an effort to read this book. Would I recommend this book, not likely.
Date published: 2014-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "The Orenda is the best Canadian novel published in 2013" It was a deservingly bold move when the Indigo Book Team put out a full-page ad in the Globe & Mail, stating, "Unjustly and inexplicably excluded from the Giller Prize shortlist, we feel that The Orenda is the best Canadian novel published in 2013." At least Canada Reads 2014 had the wisdom of awarding the right book, giving it the due acknowledgement it commanded. Could it change our nation? I don't know. I do know that "The Orenda" will emerge as a timeless Canadian piece of literature, one that will be encouraged for future generations to read and understand its value to our history, our society, and our future. There isn't much that hasn't been said about this epic novel. "The Orenda" is storytelling at its finest. It is the art of engaging the audience in its narrative, illuminating the facts in the simplest manner, embellishing the fictionalized accounts while staying true to the core message. Joseph Boyden, hats off to him, has given such distinct voices to his three characters: Bird, Snow Falls, and Christophe. They each are communicating their own story with a figure dear to them - Bird to his lost love, Snow Falls to her deceased kin, and Christophe to his faith and Lord. So you see, it's storytelling within storytelling, and with a well-researched historical narrative, weaves the plot together. The saga ends with: "What's happened in the past can't stay in the past for the same reason the future is always just a breath away. Now is what's most important, Aataentsic says. Orenda can't be lost, just misplaced. The past and the future are present." Tradition, religion, the choices we make, and the things we tell ourselves to make things be - we should not be bound to what our upbringing influences, rather our actions now dictates what we mould our future to be. Our orenda, our spiritual force, won't just come to pass for it's always there driving us, just as how this masterpiece and its lessons will be in generations to come.
Date published: 2014-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put it down! An  excellent way to learn Canadian history about early Canada through rich and detailed story telling.
Date published: 2014-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! EXCELLENT! A must read. Boyden's writing, as always, is captivating and eloquent. His stories are so interesting...I didn't want it to end! I'm definitely looking forward to his next novel. 
Date published: 2014-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful story. A MUST READ. It is amazing as to how there are different perspectives from very different views. There are time my hearts tightened and I just wanted to cry. Even though I wish the ending was a bit different and the beginning was a bit confusing, I got a hold of it. I wanted to know more but, it still ended on a peaceful note. Amazing book. One of the best I read so far and it is very different from books I usually read. I do not hate the way the book is set up, it is different in a good way. I would 1000000000% recommend this to anyone and everyone!!! A MUST READ
Date published: 2014-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Orenda “What happened in the past can’t stay in the past for the same reason that the future is always just a breath away. Now is what’s important, Aataentsic says. Orenda can’t be lost, just misplaced. The past and the future are present.”  Recently chosen as CBC’s #CanadaReads2014 contender, The Orenda touches upon our complicated understanding of history – one that highly esteems native culture while juxtaposing it against the survival instincts and sometimes violent tactics they had to employ while dealing with daily challenges of life in the forest (including the arrival of the foreign man).  The story that focuses primarily on three main characters: Christophe (The Crow) a Francophone Jesuit missionary; Bird, the leader and warrior of the Wendats (Huron) community; and Snow Falls, a young Iroquois teen born Haudenosaunee, but captured by the Wendats during a raid. This trinity of viewpoints juxtaposes against a trinity of moral relativism, moral ambiguity and the line blurring between some consider acts of moral righteousness and others acts of immoral savagery. What is beautiful is the new relationships the characters form from tragedies in their own lives. Even though Bird mourns the death of his family at the hands of the Iroquois, he adopts Snow Falls as his own daughter and to the end is devoted. Even a few chopped fingers doesn’t deter him from his love for his daughter. Meanwhile, the Crow delicately manages to gain the respect of the community, allowing him to lay the foundation to achieve his overall mission. Anyone who was part of the studio audience at #CanadaReads2013 was privy to the headed debates and suffocating tension that ensued with the discussion of The Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese. Passions ran high, as Jian Ghomeshi tried to keep the panel at bay. While most of the panellists – Carol Huynh, Jay Baruchel, and Trent McLellan --  felt that the story of native oppression needed to be told, Ron MacLean and Charlotte Gray took umbrage at the narrative and argued vociferously that this chapter should be closed and we, collectively as Canadians,  needed to move on. Personally, the thinking that certain aspects of history should be curbed and we should study only the cleansed version of what is taught in textbooks, seems like an atrocious tragedy. But perhaps when aforementioned dissenting panellists read The Orenda, they will see a more balanced historical account, one that attempts at the truth in a non-accusatory manner. We shall see next year when the book takes centre-stage at #CanadaReads2014. “…the best I can do is try and explain that where I come from we keep animals the likes of which they couldn’t imagine in great numbers for our use. It’s God’s plan. They laugh at this, the idea that one might keep herds of friendly deer or elk that walk happily to their slaughter whenever it’s time for the human to eat meat. Some ask openly if there aren’t consequences of a life so easy to live. The question fascinates me.” Joseph Boyden is indeed a master storyteller and his amusing insights into the way each party views the behaviours of the other, is delightfully raw and most times justified depending on which side of the fence the character is on. “Children and dogs run around without care, rolling the dirt with one another. If there is one thing I will not grow accustomed to, it’s the savages’ inability to chastise their children. In all my years here I have never seen an adult even raise in anger towards a child. Indeed, this should be one of the first behaviours we must try to modify. This will not happen, dear Lord, until converts are won, yes?” Driven by kindness, as well as, a pursuit to do God’s work and lead the natives into salvation, the Crow attempts to keep peace while gently understanding the ways of the Wendats. While the Huron find temporary comfort in the mission, the Crow hopes that they will stay on so that he can teach them about the Great Voice. With offerings of food and weapons, he attempts to keep them at bay and assure them that New France will be their ally against the Iroquois. Unfortunately as it turns out, apart from the single shiny wood weapon gifted to Bird to gain his trust, no more of the promised guns make their way from New France. And, as the ongoing rivalry between the Huron and the Iroquois ensues into a brutal war, there are decisions made that will change their existence like never before. “Success is measured in different ways. The success of the hunt. The success of the harvest. For some, the success of harvesting souls. We watched all of this, fascinated and frightened. Yes, we saw all that happened and yes, we sometimes smiled, but more often we were filled with fret. The world must change, though. This is no secret.” Joseph Boyden tactfully reminds us that history is living; it need not be the static artifice of letters penned years ago by the victors. As long as those in power are in the position to nation build and preserve they must also reconcile the viewpoints of aggrieved parties. As The Orenda illustrates, history is no different than the parable of the blind men and the elephant: everyone has their perspective and their stories need to be told. @ShilpaRaikar
Date published: 2014-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic writing! Wow, what a story, what a history lesson! This is also a literary masterpiece as the writing style and story telling are on par with Tolstoy and Hosseini at their best.
Date published: 2014-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read! One word: excellent. Boyden is a powerful and captivating writer. The Orenda is a must read for anyone.
Date published: 2014-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Treasure. Its an important and powerful book for the subject matter, it begins and ends beautifully. The writing is succinct for the time.  Without writing pages of literary appreciation I will simply recommend this book to be read, felt and discussed. This is the magic of story, and this one in particular, it can transcend time to take us on a journey of knowledge and insight and leave us to contemplate where we were, are now, and where we want to go. The last chorus of Joseph's novel says - ' WE HAD THE MAGIC, the orenda before the crows came.......Now is what's important, Aataentsic says. Orenda can't be lost, just misplaced. The past and the future are present."
Date published: 2014-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A realistic picture of 17th century Canada In a word "fantastic"  Think of "Black Robe" but with more detailed character development.
Date published: 2014-01-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I haven't read this is don't know what it means. I purchased this as a gift for a friend that very interested in Canadian history. He liked it but it was very violent.
Date published: 2014-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved it, my sister loved it... We learned the history of the 17th century Jesuit outpost in then-remote Ontario, from the European /Christian point of view. Get ready for a no-holds-barred look at what the native people went through! Their lives,already riddled with conflict between first nations, privation, and torture, none of it glossed over, were complicated with politics involving trade, and illnesses brought to them by the missionaries. There's also racism and wildly different takes on what's happening and what it means. If you thought  history was boring, you need to read this. John
Date published: 2013-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Thought Provoking and Powerful Novel The Orenda is a striking, powerful and important book that is destined to be core reading in Canadian universities’ Can-Lit courses and perhaps in their history departments too. The story is told by three narrators: Bird, a Huron warrior and leader; Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl who is adopted by Bird after he and his warriors slaughter her family; and Christophe, a Jesuit priest the Huron call ‘Crow’. Set in the early/mid 1600s - the time of Champlain - the Huron and Iroquois are long time rivals who compete to trade with the newly arrived Europeans, and whose relationship has deteriorated to a semi-war status. The Jesuits - just Crow at first, but later a couple of others - are irrepressible in their mission to convert the “sauvage” to Catholicism. The story is engaging, with excellent character development, plot twists, and an excellent pacing that builds to an unexpected climax. The foreshadowing, imagery and symbolism are inspired; woven into the story deftly, with neither the heavy hand or the esoteric tangents of some authors. For example, Snow Falls ponders her separate intimate relations with two young men, Aaron (converted to Christianity and western life), and Carries an Axe, an emerging native leader, and wonders what her father will think. "All fathers should worry about their daughters," she muses. A general truth, slipped easily into the narrative, but as with so much of Boyden's writing, also with so much meaning. Snow Falls is truly a daughter of both First Nations in the conflict - a symbol of all First Nations and their future. Worry indeed. The story will have readers thinking about native relations as the continent was being settled by Europeans, but the plot twists and imagery will have readers pondering many modern day “what if ...” questions, as visions, accidents, mistakes, calculated actions, and fate drive the protagonists to a conclusive end. What is it to assimilate one nation into another? What constitutes genocide? How did we arrive at our patchwork of Indian reservations? What might have happened had Europeans not shown up, when “epidemics [began] to sweep through these people?” As Snow Falls notes, with the priest’s very arrival “an illness was slipping into th[e] village” - a moral sickness with more lingering impact than the aforementioned physical sickness. The savagery of the book is pervasive - nation on nation; human on human; human on animal - but it is matter of fact, a natural part of the narrative, the setting, and the time rather than the cartoon-like, graphic violence we’ve become inured to in modern television and cinema. Countering the acts of savagery, there is a harmony in the traditional native ways - a “connection between man and nature” and in everything - “animals, trees, bodies of water, even rocks strewn on the ground” a life force called the orenda. The Jesuit acknowledge possession of a soul elevates all to a common status of humanity, but then question it with respect to natives' violent actions and compare them to "animals in savagely human form". Natives are expected to dine with western manners, to undertake Christian rituals, yet the Jesuit decline the natives’ ritual pipe smoking, and face life challenges by leaving the outcome to “God’s hands.” The Europeans’ technological superiority is evident, but their moral superiority and intestinal fortitude is suspect. A powerful book by an important writer. The Orenda will richly reward all who read it.
Date published: 2013-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timeless and imperative novel Simply put, Joseph Boyden's The Orenda is a timeless and imperative read for every Canadian. Even if you're not Canadian, you should read this novel. It will edify, illuminate, shatter, and complete your understanding of society during 17th century First Nations and European first contact. That The Orenda did not make the short list for either the Giller or the GG is quite incomprehensible. If ever there were a novel, and an author, worthy of our attention, our praise, and our accolades, it is The Orenda and Joseph Boyden. Quite beyond The Orenda's importance in the canon of Canadian literature, it is a compelling read. (And for me one near and dear to my heart, given my own short story, And the Angels Sang, which formed the keystone story for my collection by the same name.) Boyden tells the story of the Iroquoian pogrom against the Wyandot (Huron) peoples, which culminated in the destruction of the Jesuit mission at Ste. Marie among the Hurons in present day Midland, and the legendary torture and execution of St. Jean de Brebeuf. While Boyden chooses fictional names for the people involved in this historic occurrence, the historical integrity and framework remains. The story itself is told in first person, present-tense narratives through three voices, that of Snow Falls, an Iroquoian girl orphaned and captured by a Huron warrior; that of Bird, the warrior responsible for Snow Falls' plight and who subsequently adopts her; and Father Christophe, the Jesuit, or Crow, who comes among the Huron to bring his version of redemption and salvation to the sauvages. Boyden sculpts these characters with a deft hand, so they are fully realized, living entities with voices so strong they haunt your thoughts. There is no confusion when progressing chapter to chapter who speaks, a feat not easily accomplished unless at the hand of a confident writer. The pacing is brisk, tense, never flagging, and even if a reader weren't aware of the history about which Boyden writes, there would be a sense of drums thundering beneath the text, of doom echoing through the forests. All of these components are fused together with Boyden's trademark style, employing spare language, each word chosen for precise impact. This is a lean story which is, in contrast, defiantly rich and satiating. Whether you choose to immerse yourself in The Orenda by way of eBook or print, I assure you these hours you spend reading will be profound and memorable. Bravo, Joseph. Miigwech.
Date published: 2013-10-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A compelling book I have not finished reading this book, however, I already know that it is wonderfully dense with characters and historical information that is satisfying and rich. It's been a long time since I've read something that I find as compelling as this book. I'm completely enthralled.
Date published: 2013-10-07

Extra Content

Read from the Book

CHASTISEMENT   They are beautiful people. I cannot ignore this fact. I write all of this down in the bound book I’ve carried tucked in my robe, one of the very few comforts I possess. To bring Jesus into the lives of these people is one mission. To report my findings back to my Superior in Kebec, who will in turn send it to his back home in France, is the other. Ultimately, I write of my journeys and my struggles and my suffering to glorify You. I will die here for You if this is what is requested of me. These sauvages, they are shameless in their lack of modesty. When the fire burns hot, the children run naked around the longhouse and the women strip down to their waist. The men often walk around in simple breechclouts, and a number of times I’ve witnessed couples I am quite sure aren’t married embracing and then slipping away. The light of the fires, the thick smoke, the primal grunts of passion, the laughing children, the chatter of this language that I struggle so hard to master, I think I might very well be in one of Dante’s rings. I record in my journal that each longhouse is the length and width of a small ship, and families related through the women reside within. As far as I can tell, eight or ten families, each with its own fire, fill these residences with the noises of humanity. I’ve estimated anywhere from forty to sixty souls in each longhouse, and I believe there to be at least fifty longhouses in this community. What’s more, I’ve been told that this village is just one of many in what I’ve termed Huronia, this land they call Wendake. While it’s possible to walk the length of Huronia in just a few days, I’ve learned that five separate and yet unified nations populate this fertile country, each with its own name. The people I reside with call themselves the Bear, and the other nations are named Rock and Cord and Swamp and Deer. Their sworn enemies, the Iroquois, also consist of five nations, but it seems that the Huron refer to them collectively as Haudenosaunee in their language. The Huron are, as Champlain so duly noted a number of years ago, the key traders in a very large geography, controlling their business with the keen eye of a banker. They dominate the trade of tribes as disparate as the Montagnais to the north and the Neutral to the south. Their main currency is the vast quantity of corn that they grow each summer. I’m fascinated to watch how their different systems work as time allows, but from what I can see, they trade their produce with the Algonquin and the Nipissing for those hunting people’s furs, mainly beaver, which the Huron then paddle all the way to New France in the summer, where they trade those furs for staples such as iron axes and copper kettles and all form of glass beads, which to the Huron are as valuable as gold. They in turn bring back these treasures from New France and again trade them with their neighbours to the north and south. Yes, they are indeed the lynchpin to the economy of this new world. Now that it’s winter, each family sleeps up off the ground on raised platforms, mother on one end, father on the other, children squeezed in between. They are smart enough to peel the bark from the wood they burn but it’s still sometimes so smoky that my eyes are often irritated. These longhouses are truly a wonder, like giant beehives woven together with saplings and covered in sheets of bark. Up in the rafters hang corn and beans and squash and tobacco and dried fish and all manner of food that I’ve never seen before. The Huron winters are clearly the time of relaxation and enjoyment. All day long the mothers play with their children, and the dozen or so dogs that wander through the longhouse are treated as members of the family as well, eating from their hosts’ kettles and sleeping in their beds, and all this madness of life surrounds me while the men stand in groups, taking turns visiting one another’s longhouses to talk and laugh and smoke pipes of tobacco. The men are tall, some nearly my size. I’ve always towered over my companions in France. Wasn’t it the dear Bishop who nicknamed me the Brittany Giant? But these ones have a musculature that’s impressive, taut stomachs and strong arms, their brown, hairless skin in the winter firelight like oil paintings that have come alive. Some have their women pluck and shave the hair from both sides of their heads with sharpened and intricately decorated clamshells, leaving a thick brush of it running down the centre that they grease until it stands on end. An ancient sailor on the miserable voyage over from the old world to this new one regaled all of us with his experiences in this land, going so far as to claim he was the one to first name these people Huron, wild boars, for how he thought the men’s hair bristles like a pig’s. Other warriors grow their hair long and shave off only one side of it, which leaves them looking frightening and half-mad. On the warpath, Bird and his soldiers paint their faces in red and yellow and black ochre. I am sure this was meant to stir the same fear in their enemies that it did in me. The women are as striking as the men with their long shining black hair, their white smiles flashing against brown skin. They go to great lengths to decorate themselves, sometimes spending hours chattering as they braid feathers and tiny painted clay beads into one another’s hair. Some of them have even tattooed their bodies with the images of animals, and these women seem held in high regard. Many of them love to flirt with me, regardless of their age. They smile coyly, and the younger ones think nothing of touching my hand or my arm, as if to prove to themselves that I’m indeed real. Word has gotten out that my vows prevent me from being with women, but obviously their simplicity prevents them from understanding the complexity of Catholicism. As I preached the other day, after much confusion in our mutual understanding, a man dared to ask me if I preferred boys, causing all the others to laugh hysterically. This childlike comprehension of the world will be both my greatest test and a wonderful tool. I’ll treat them as I once treated young children back in France when I was given the rather odious mission of teaching them the catechism. These first ten days, I feel like a prisoner in this glowing longhouse filled with smoke. Bird is clearly an important man in this community. I’ve watched people bring him gifts and come to visit now that he’s back. And I understand the crowds come as much to see me as they do Bird. I take this opportunity to try to bring a little of God’s light into this dark corner of the world. For months last year back in Kebec, I worked on learning the Huron language, a converted sauvage with the Christian name of Luke teaching me its guttural intricacies. He explained that I had to begin to grasp the natural world around me if I were ever to conquer the language. The Huron, Luke said, don’t live above the natural world but as a part of it. The key to their language was to make the connection between man and nature. I scoffed at this. A language doesn’t exist that can’t be learned by rote. And You, Lord, have given us the natural world for our use and our governance. Man was not meant to grovel in the dirt with animals but to rise above them. I make note in my relations to be sent back in due course to you, my dear Superior, that this is a lesson paramount for the conversion of the sauvages. I had long ago proved myself masterful with languages. Thanks be to God, I’ve been given the gift of Latin and Greek, a little English, some Dutch. In fact, dear Superior, did you not choose me for this mission to New France because of my ability to learn new tongues? Just one more reflection for now, something I find both fascinating and appalling. In matters of the spirit, these sauvages believe that we all have within us a life force that is similar, if you will, to our own Catholic belief in the soul. They call this life force the orenda. That is the fascinating part. What appals me is that these poor misguided beings believe not just humans have an orenda but also animals, trees, bodies of water, even rocks strewn on the ground. In fact, every last thing in their world contains its own spirit. When I pushed Bird about this, he explained it to me in a rather odd way. He told me of a recent hunting trip in which he pursued a deer for a long time. Eventually he caught up to and killed it. “My orenda overpowered its orenda,” he said. “The deer’s orenda allowed me to take it.” He then looked at me as if his words might explain with final clarity this strange belief of theirs. I have to admit, dear Superior, that I’m still left confused. Today, a dozen of them sit on the ground in front of me, staring and whispering amongst themselves, watching my every move and study- ing me with such intensity that I begin to sweat. Those closest to me hold their noses or fan their faces as if I’m the one who reeks, despite their overpowering smells of smoke and hide and what I can only describe as lustful intention. A couple of young women sitting at my feet try to peer up my cassock and then laugh as they mimic me blessing myself. An old man near the wall sits with a rigid back and his arms crossed, his thin lips scowling. Like a child struggling for words, I slowly begin with the holy lamb. But there is no such thing as a lamb in the world of these people, and so Jesus becomes a fawn, a fawn whose blood is spilled so that we might live eternally. One heckler, an old woman, says loudly that the thought of fawn’s blood makes her hungry in this winter when fresh meat is scarce, and why do I torture her so? The others laugh at this. I’ve learned quickly that they laugh often, even at the most inappropriate times. “If you take the fawn that is Jesus into your life,” I say slowly and then stop, straining for the words. “Your hunger. Gone.” They scoff at this. “Not go hungry ever again?” one young man asks. “Does this mean we are dead?” Again there is more laughter and more discussion in their tongue, all of it too quick for me to understand. When the crowd breaks down like this, usually after only a few minutes of my speaking, I know I’ve lost them. And that’s when I take my chalice and white cloth from my bag, and I use a bit of their sagamité, the horrid corn mush they call ottet that’s the staple of their diet in the winter and on travels. With this mush that I’ve flattened and dried and rounded into a small Host, I perform the most sacred of sacraments, lifting the chalice of melted snow water to Heaven so that it might become Your blood, raising the corn wafer to the sky so it transforms into Your flesh. This always silences them. They watch every little move with the eyes of hawks, all humour gone from their faces. Apparently, they’re more susceptible to my actions than to my words. I’ve made careful note of this, and wait patiently for the day when one of them will dare ask that he or she might also take a sip from the chalice, a nibble from my outstretched hand. And yet there’s one who watches everything, who misses nothing, who doesn’t rudely interrupt when I preach. The young Iroquois girl hides beneath her sleeping robe, the girl I carried in my arms through that nightmarish day. In all the time we’ve been here, I can’t remember seeing her move from her perch above me in the bed beside Bird’s. I desperately hope that no ill intention exists in Bird’s loins. I find it very strange indeed that he’s the only one in the longhouse without a wife or family. Has the sauvage taken this girl to be a child bride? I will keep a close eye on this. Early this morning I wake up in the dark, the wind blowing hard and Bird stoking the fire before sneaking out of the longhouse. Sleep beckons me back to its warmth and comfort, and it’s exactly this I know I must fight. I deserve neither of these as long as those around me remain heathen. Forcing myself up from my blanket, I kneel on the hard ground in the corner away from the fire in just my nightshirt, shivering through my morning prayers and contemplation. The girl troubles me. She troubles me deeply. The image of her stripping naked in the snow and offering herself to me is burned into my memory no matter how hard I try to erase it. It was her smile as she lay exposed there, asking me something I couldn’t comprehend. And then the wickedness of what she wished me to do dawned on me and forced my hand harshly across her mouth. I’ve already made careful note of this in my relations to dear Superior, which I can only hope will eventually reach him. The one conclusion I can draw from the depravity and brutality I’ve witnessed so far is that these beings, while certainly human, exist on a plane far lower than even Europe’s lowest caste. I must remember, though, that all of us are God’s creatures. It is my mission to begin to help these poor souls rise up. The only way that their eternal souls might be saved is to accept Jesus, and to do this they must accept the Eucharist. As if Christ Himself speaks directly to me on this frigid morning deep in this troubled land, I can see a vision materialize through the fog of my breath. The girl will become my first convert. I know this as surely as anything I’ve ever known. I remember her hand clutch- ing my crucifix as we walked the last miles and were accosted by the Huron sentries. The poor thing is in desperate need of redemption. Her tempting me is evidence. And I have been brought here to offer it to her. When I am finished my morning vespers, I don my heavy black robe, noting that it’s saturated with my scent, the heavy stink of hard labour, the sour odour of sheer fear, and suddenly I feel self-conscious. I push this worry away. I must rise above the physical stains of humanity. My mission is more than the mundane facts of everyday life. I am more than that. The sounds of sleep still echo through the longhouse as I climb the ladder to the young girl’s bed. It strikes me I don’t even know her name. No need. Soon enough, I will give her a Christian one. This will be a first for this territory, and word of it will travel far. The girl lies on her back, tucked into a plush beaver robe. Her mouth is slightly open and I can’t help but smile to notice a thin string of spit runs from the side of it. She appears deep in sleep, and for this I’m thankful. She’s been through so much. We all have. Though Bird tied me to a tree out of sight of her family’s massacre, the sounds of struggle and screaming and slaughter still haunt me. The girl has gone mute for good reason. At her age she saw what no one should ever have to witness. The brutality these people are so willing to show their enemies astounds me. I stare at the girl for a long time in the dim light, trying to understand her. I suddenly realize that I am trying to see her humanity. She’s not very beautiful, at least in comparison to the other children around her. She’d be better looking if not for the scars of some childhood disease that ravaged her face. Epidemics have begun to sweep through these people the last few years. I can only take this as a sign from God, a divine message. Any fool can see that when great change comes, the weak and the wicked will suffer. But the converted will live on. I bless myself and whisper prayers of devotion and of gratitude and of guidance. I pray most fervently for the salvation of the soul of the young one sleeping in front of me. When I’m done, I raise the silver crucifix, a gift from my dear mother before departing on this voyage, and kiss it, then decide to lower it to the girl’s lips. After all, she’s already shown such fascination with the cross. As Jesus touches her mouth, I’m shocked to see her eyes dart open. She raises her arms and pushes against my chest. Only now do I realize how closely I’m hovering over her. Her fists are a flurry of punches against me, and as I lean away, the crucifix in hand, she begins screaming. Panicked, I clap my hand over her mouth before she wakes the others. They’ll see me up here with her and will not understand. I plead with her in whispers to be quiet but her eyes only widen more. When she bites my hand, the pain shoots up my arm and I pull it shoulder slams into the unforgiving earth with the crack of what must be a bone breaking, the dull throb followed immediately by a sharp pain that sucks the breath from me. Bird stands above, his face contorted in anger, a knife in his hand. He raises it as he straddles my chest. I can see that he’ll do it, and my first reaction is regret that I’ve come all this way only to fail in converting a single sauvage. I close my eyes and whisper to Jesus for another chance, wait for the burn of the knife across my throat. But it doesn’t come. Instead, I hear a strange voice, young but gravelly, speaking calmly, rationally, in Huron. It’s not quite human in tone, more like a small animal that’s learned to speak like a two-legged being. I pick up certain words. Spirit. Father. Illness. I slowly open my eyes. Bird stares at me, and, over his shoulder, up in the rafters on her sleeping perch, the girl peers down, talking to the back of Bird’s head, her thin face hovering above us in the early light that comes in from the smoke holes of the longhouse. Her face shimmers in the glow of morning and fire smoke so that I can’t help but think of her as a spirit, a ghost who’s appeared to intervene. Bird stands up, with one foot on either side of me. He says nothing, but his look tells me as surely as if he were screaming it. Never touch this girl again. He turns then and strides out. I look around and see the other families have risen from their beds and stand in a ring at a distance, staring. I look up to glimpse the strange sight of the girl once more, but already she’s disappeared. For three days, no one visits or speaks to me. I assume this is Bird’s punishment. And so, unsure if I’m even allowed to leave the longhouse, I sit in a corner that offers some privacy and spend long hours in prayer and reflection. At least I attempt to, but a growing sense of isolation, of what by the second day I realize is malaise, sets in. Like snow built up on a roof too long, I fear I creak with too much weight. I fear I will col- lapse. My shoulder was dislocated in the fall, and the right arm hangs limply, now longer than the left. The pain is breathtaking. If only I had another Jesuit here to re-set it. If only I had another Brother here to speak with, another priest with whom I might seek confession and absolution. I try to sleep but it’s fitful, shot through with a deep-seated fear that I’ve gone so far into this bizarre and brutal land that even God has lost contact with me. away. The girl’s screams pierce my ears, ringing through the longhouse, and just under them I can hear the sounds of people awakening abruptly all around me, of men scuffling for their weapons. A rush of cold air sweeps up to send chills down my back and I hear feet scrambling up the ladder, then feel a hand grab my cassock and yank. Now I’m falling, and I close my eyes and grit my teeth just as my shoulder slams into the unforgiving earth with the crack of what must be a bone breaking, the dull throb followed immediately by a sharp pain that sucks the breath from me. Bird stands above, his face con- torted in anger, a knife in his hand. He raises it as he straddles my chest. I can see that he’ll do it, and my first reaction is regret that I’ve come all this way only to fail in converting a single sauvage. I close my eyes and whisper to Jesus for another chance, wait for the burn of the knife across my throat. But it doesn’t come. Instead, I hear a strange voice, young but gravelly, speaking calmly, rationally, in Huron. It’s not quite human in tone, more like a small animal that’s learned to speak like a two-legged being. I pick up certain words. Spirit. Father. Illness. I slowly open my eyes. Bird stares at me, and, over his shoulder, up in the rafters on her sleeping perch, the girl peers down, talking to the back of Bird’s head, her thin face hovering above us in the early light that comes in from the smoke holes of the longhouse. Her face shimmers in the glow of morning and fire smoke so that I can’t help but think of her as a spirit, a ghost who’s appeared to intervene. Bird stands up, with one foot on either side of me. He says nothing, but his look tells me as surely as if he were screaming it. Never touch this girl again. He turns then and strides out. I look around and see the other families have risen from their beds and stand in a ring at a distance, staring. I look up to glimpse the strange sight of the girl once more, but already she’s disappeared. For three days, no one visits or speaks to me. I assume this is Bird’s punishment. And so, unsure if I’m even allowed to leave the longhouse, I sit in a corner that offers some privacy and spend long hours in prayer and reflection. At least I attempt to, but a growing sense of isolation, of what by the second day I realize is malaise, sets in. Like snow built up on a roof too long, I fear I creak with too much weight. I fear I will col- lapse. My shoulder was dislocated in the fall, and the right arm hangs limply, now longer than the left. The pain is breathtaking. If only I had another Jesuit here to re-set it. If only I had another Brother here to speak with, another priest with whom I might seek confession and absolution. I try to sleep but it’s fitful, shot through with a deep-seated fear that I’ve gone so far into this bizarre and brutal land that even God has lost contact with me. What of the others? I set out from New France with the plan of reaching Huronia late last summer. I was promised that a group of Jesuits who were due to arrive soon from Normandy would follow if the season still permitted. In the best of conditions the trip from Kebec to Huronia is a three- week-long act of brutality, back-breaking work of paddling and portaging great distances, which means lifting everything from the canoes and making multiple trips, sometimes of miles, through bogs or up steep embankments, half the weight of a man strapped to your back. Living daily with swarms of insects that sting and itch and bite, hoping for the short respite of rain and, when it comes, shivering in the downpours, then wishing for some sun again, despite this meaning the return of the insects. Starving even as the sauvages seem to grow stronger from the scarcity of food, waking before dawn each morning and bending their backs against the currents in their flimsy, wobbly craft until dark, smoking their wretched tobacco in place of meals. They grew more muscular as I began to wither. But the worst aspect of my journey was certainly the Iroquois, enemies of us French. To get to Huronia, one must pass through their country. Yes, being hunched from dawn to dusk on scabbed and bloody knees, the painful monotony of paddling into wind and rain, never resting or stopping to eat until light faded, this was simply crushing. The abject fear, though, that I tried to constantly quell was of being surprised by an Iroquois raiding party. I did all that I knew to do. I tried to place myself in Your hands. And I am so sorry that, for a time, I failed. I’d left New France last year with a small party of Algonquin who promised Champlain himself that they would deliver me safely to the Hurons. I forgive them now, as I write this to dear Superior in my book. After all, I admit I’m a weak paddler and despite my size, couldn’t carry nearly as much as them. I remember them grumbling and complaining amongst themselves for the ten days. One heathen even began to loudly suggest I was a demon in human form. But it’s when we came across a barely cold Iroquois campfire that the Algonquin made their decision. That afternoon, after they inspected the camp, silent and cautious as wolves, and just as I was relieving myself behind a clump of willow, they climbed into their canoes. They’d deposited my black cloth bag containing my chalice and diary and few personal possessions on the shore, along with a small sack of food. I emerged from the bush and watched as they paddled away at speed. The more I shouted for them to come back, the faster they worked to get away. I quit only when it dawned on me they wouldn’t return and that my shouts might very well alert the Iroquois, who couldn’t be far away, to my presence. The terror consumed me those first hours as I huddled behind that same clump of willow, peering out at the lake in hopes the Algonquin might return for me, pleading to You, Lord, that this not be the way I was to perish. Might not dying alone, slowly starving and going mad, lost in the tangle of forest as the mosquitoes ate me alive, be even worse than to die the death of a martyr at the vicious hands of the Iroquois? This morning, as I sit ignored in the corner of the longhouse, I truly come to understand that my life, and my death, are preordained, and I come to the understanding that fretting over all of this will not aid my mission but cripple it. This third morning of chastisement, I kneel on the hard ground shivering, and I finally feel the fear that’s consumed me release and begin to lift from my back, a fear that’s burdened me since I first set foot in this foreign and desperate place. With my left hand, I force my right arm up the wall until it’s above my head, my shoulder braying its anguish. I whisper now to You as I throw my weight hard into the wall. I feel the ball popping into its joint again as I collapse. I fall to the floor and bite my hand to stop a scream from escaping and awaking the house. I will die. We’ll all die. How many times have I narrowly escaped it in the past few months? The last few days? My death most probably will happen here in this foreign world, away from my family, at the hands of these people. So be it, Lord. So be it.

Editorial Reviews

"The Orenda illuminates the shadowy moment of our inception as a country. It forces us to bravely consider who we are. The Orenda is much more than a timely novel. It is a timeless one; born a classic.” - The National Post“An epic worthy of Herodotus or Sima Qian, and by its ardour and high seriousness The Orenda declares it an equal to any ancient Greek or Chinese account of empires rising and falling.” - Globe and Mail“Boyden’s bloody and brick-thick new novel, The Orenda, is a historical epic about an idealistic missionary caught between warring tribes, hundreds of years before confederation. . . Full of head-bludgeoning and throat-cutting scenes set in the wilds of what is now Ontario, the novel feels like a hybrid of Pierre Berton and Cormac McCarthy: perfect for readers who like a little arterial spray with their history.” - Toronto Life“A beautifully written Canadian epic.”Adr - Adrienne Clarkson“Canada is so young. You can see it. We don’t tend toward honest self-reflection. We don’t listen. We feel we have only things to teach, nothing to learn. Our identity is elusive, we don’t know who we are. Lately we’ve tried to trump up a nationalist rhetoric, a warrior history that isn’t. Because it’s more convenient, less hard, we’ve looked in the wrong places for the wrong things. To be truly ‘Canada’ we have to go further back, to look at the totality of all our actions, we have to go to the unsettling, uncomfortable parts, we have be truly self-reflexive. We can’t get away from it: ours is a history of deceit, plunder, genocide. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden is a new story. It helps us to unbelieve the old story, the one that has started to sound false, hollow, the one that has stopped us, distorted us. That is why it is important. Because Canada is so old.” - Gord Downie“One of the most powerful works of fiction about Canada’s history to come along in years.” - Peter Mansbridge“Joseph Boyden has taken our memory of the past – myth and fact – ripped it inside out with elegance, violence, emotion and understanding until before us stands a new myth, a new memory, of how we became who we are.” - John Ralston Saul“The Orenda is a powerful story from history, folklore and the imagination, based on the universality of human cruelty, superstition and perseverance. Wonderful writing.” - Linden MacIntyre, Giller Prize-winning author of The Bishop's Man“An important and engrossing novel. Boyden invites the reader to re-imagine a Canadian story you thought you knew.” - Jim Balsillie, Co-Founder Blackberry“I have spent almost forty years of my life studying both the archaeology of the Huron-Wendat and the annual accounts of the Crows and only now, having read Joseph Boyden's brilliant novel, do I feel the majesty and the horrors of the lives of these people. His work should be required reading for every Canadian” - Dr. Ronald F. Williamson, co-author of The Mantle Site: An Archaeological History of an Ancestral Wendat Community and Managing Partner of Archaeological Services Inc.“Every so often, a book can bring the past back to life so vividly that it ceases to be history and becomes a part of the living world. Joseph Boyden has done this with haunting beauty and visceral strength, repopulating a destroyed world with characters so real and striking it is hard to think of them as fictional. The Orenda is not only Boyden’s finest work, it is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read.” - Steven Galloway, The Cellist of Sarajevo