The Orenda

Kobo ebook | September 10, 2013

byJoseph Boyden

not yet rated|write a review
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.

Pricing and Purchase Info


Available for download
Not available in stores

The Orenda

Kobo ebook | September 10, 2013
Available for download Not available in stores

From the Publisher

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 ...

Format:Kobo ebookPublished:September 10, 2013Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143189409

ISBN - 13:9780143189404

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of The Orenda


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping I finished this book in a week; that's how good it was to read. It took a few chapters to follow the author's style, but otherwise it was eye-opening to Canadian history.
Date published: 2017-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read A good read, although a bit confusing at teh start with the alternating viewpoints. You get the hang of it after a while.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read I was recommend this by a colleague and I did not regret it! Such a powerful story, with characters you love and others that make you want to slap 'em silly. I liked the alternating viewpoints, as it gave a good idea of what exactly was going on in each person's mind for the same scenario. Definitely a book I needed breaks from, what with all the information being thrown your way but certainly one that keeps you thinking long after you've finished it.
Date published: 2017-01-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ehhhh I had high hopes, but the way this was written really bothered me. I didn't like constanly switching from different view points.
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A bit of a difficult read I read this because of Canada Reads. It was sometimes a difficult read, but it was worth it. Ultimately a powerful story. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Difficult but worth it I read fast and tend to plow through books in one sitting, and I found The Orenda mildly frustrating. Joseph Boyden's writing style is beautiful, and it starts out very strong, but there was a point in the middle where the book became something of a slog - HOWEVER, once it picked back up, and it definitely did, the final third of the novel packed a serious punch and swung the whole story back around to a huge positive. It was intense and moving and stayed with me for a long time after I finished it. If you decide to just power through the slow part in the middle of the book, it's very rewarding.
Date published: 2016-12-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read! This book offers a striking and powerful narrative by a Canadian author. It offers a moving story of Canada's First Nation history. The layout makes the read confusing at times because it does not differentiate between characters from chapter to chapter.
Date published: 2016-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Confusing, but worth the read It was difficult to get into this book. The narratives were confusing and I did struggle to get through it, but I am glad I did. It was an interesting look inside of Canada's less-talked about pieces of history.
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing! This novel is so good! It is gorgeously written and brings a realistic perspective on Canada's early history.
Date published: 2016-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Moving and Disturbing I purchased this book after it won "Canada Reads." It is a very powerful and moving story that provides deep insights into some first nations tribes and their traditions. At times the story is violent and deeply disturbing, but always in service to the plot and the reality of what living in this time and culture would have been like. The intricacies of inter tribe relations and the differences between tribal traditions was insightful. I have to say that this is an exceptional piece of fiction, not only for the beautifully written story and characters, but also for the sheer depth of research that went into this book, it is outstanding. The book is so relevant to current cultural and human relations of all kind, and is of real value in facilitating discussions about the history of our country and the future for all its peoples. This book provoked so much though, research and emotion among members of our bookclub, we required two meetings to fully discuss its content. I cannot give this book enough positive praise.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Moving and Disturbing I purchased this book after it won "Canada Reads." It is a very powerful and moving story that provides deep insights into some first nations tribes and their traditions. At times the story is violent and deeply disturbing, but always in service to the plot and the reality of what living in this time and culture would have been like. The intricacies of inter tribe relations and the differences between tribal traditions was insightful. I have to say that this is an exceptional piece of fiction, not only for the beautifully written story and characters, but also for the sheer depth of research that went into this book, it is outstanding. The book is so relevant to current cultural and human relations of all kind, and is of real value in facilitating discussions about the history of our country and the future for all its peoples. This book provoked so much though, research and emotion among members of our bookclub, we required two meetings to fully discuss its content. I cannot give this book enough positive praise.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking and Heartwarming all at once Set aside a weekend to enjoy this novel. It is not a light hearted and overly happy novel but it is a masterpiece that is wildly captivating and enjoyable. I think all Canadians should read this novel and reflect on your own perceptions of the past.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Canadian Writer If you love aboriginal type stories or writings you will love this book. The details he puts into this brings the story alive. A look into the the beginning of the fur trade between the Europeans and the Aboriginals. Gives a glimpse into the culture. Story is amazing and will lead you pleading for more and in some parts screaming why!
Date published: 2016-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking - a must read! Another Boyden masterpiece! This graphically detailed piece of Canadian history should be mandatory reading in every Canadian high school. An incredible depiction of events that we should all be made aware of. This book left me with a heavy heart upon completion - not only due to the content, but also because it was over. This is a book that you will share with your friends, yet hound them until they return it - a must keep for multiple reads. Thank you Mr. Boyden for enriching my life yet again!
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful Striking and powerful read and a great history lesson. It can be graphic at times and possibly keep you up a bit late with the vividness but well worth a sleepless night here and there. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Decent I found this slower and harder to get through than Boyden's other books. The writing is still top notch, but the narrative dragged at times. You have to be prepared to slog through it, but it is worthwhile if you can stick it out.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved, loved, loved! This was an amazing book that makes history more personal, and gives the reader a feeling of what really happened to our native people. It's history told with a captivating story and interesting characters.
Date published: 2016-11-03
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