Saturday Summary: The Orenda

Author: Joseph Boydon
Published: September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
My Rating on Goodreads: 4 out of 5 stars

The Orenda

The Orenda is a book that’s received a lot of positive reception. It was a candidate for two awards, the 2013 Governor General’s Award for English fiction and the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Orenda was also selected for the 2014 edition of Canada Reads and won. I can definitely say that this book lives up to its reputation. 

When I initially read reviews for The Orenda, many people said this book should be required reading for Canadians and non-Canadians alike. Other people also mentioned that the book is quite violent but that it’s a well-written book.

The book is quite violent but that didn’t phase me–either because I watch enough violent TV or am not bothered by it as a reader. I also found it natural and inevitable given the historical context of the novel.

Adding to that, the beauty and power in the story itself overshadows the violence. This is a powerful story, told through the eyes of three major players: a Huron elder named Bird, an Iroquois girl, Snow Falls and a French Jesuit missionary, Christophe.

All three of their lives are joined when Bird takes Snow Falls and Christophe captive. Bird sees a special power and his own late daughter in Snow Falls. At the same time, Bird is intrigued by Christophe, this stranger in their lands he often refers to as “Christophe Crow.” Snow Falls wants to avenge her family, who died at the hands of Bird’s people. Christophe wants to spread the message of the gospel, seeing it as his mission. And Bird wants his people to flourish and to avenge his own family’s death at the hands of Snow Falls’ people. Naturally, this causes a rift between the two tribes.

The story is very interesting and I can honestly say this book has taught me more about Canada’s history and Native culture/history than most history classes have ever taught me. It’s heart-breaking and illuminating and I can see why it won Canada Reads 2014.

The story is gripping with its well-rounded characters, events and unique description. I really love Joseph Boyden’s writing style, how he so seamlessly weaves metaphors and personifications of the natural world into his writing.

The Orenda is one of my favourite novels. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars because I really loved the writing, the story and the characters but disliked some parts of the ending. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Native culture and history, and the early history of what is now Canada.

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