Book Reviews

Book Review: “The Orenda” by Joseph Boyden 


Published – 2013
Summary from Goodreads: From the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Through Black Spruce comes a powerful literary masterpiece 

The Orenda opens with the kidnapping of Snow Falls, a spirited Iroquois girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. Although it’s been years since the murder of his family members, they’re never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter; he sees that the girl possesses powerful magic, something useful to him and his people on the troubled road ahead. The Huron Nation has battled the Iroquois for as long as Bird can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous peril from afar.Christophe does not see himself as a threat, however. A charismatic Jesuit missionary, he has found his calling amongst the Huron, devoting himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. As an emissary from distant lands, he brings much more, though, than his faith to the new world.As these three souls dance one another through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars, and a nation emerges from worlds in flux. Powerful and deeply moving, The Orenda traces a story of blood and hope, suspicion and trust, hatred and love. A saga nearly four hundred years old, it is at its roots timeless and eternal.

My thoughts:

At first, I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book for my Canadian Literature class…and that’s only because of the length. But hey, once you get past it, I mean…wow. There is no better way to explain Canada’s brutal history than this. 

At first it was a bit confusing during chapters to realize which point of view was being used, but after about the first 50 or 60 pages, you really get a sense of the characters and you can understand it properly.

The charaters were beautifully constructed. You have Bird the leader, Snow Falls his unwilling adopted daughter, and Crow who is trying to get these “sauvages” to convert to believing in Christ. These three pivotal characters are central to the plot, and everything revolves around them. I’ve said so before in my past reviews (particularly on Jodi Picoult) that I love books that switch between the different points of view of the characters, so I was already sold on this book in the second chapter! 

I mentioned above that this is a great book to introduce Canada’s brutal history. And this is the truth…a lot of people are unaware of how brutal our Natives were treated. 

In class, we talked about how Joseph Boyden disagrees with what literature should be considered a dominant narrative – it’s all mostly French and English books. His view is that Aboriginals should also be included, and I think that he proves his point graciously with “The Orenda”. 

Final Impression:

I give this book a proud 10 Beavers out of 10! (Haha…get it?). I must warn you though, that this book is NOT for the light hearted! The battles and bloodshed are the kinds of descriptions that Joseph Boyden doesn’t hold back on – and rightfully so, because why would he write a book about our history and not make it as close to the truth as he possibly can? He definitely deserved all the awards he got. If you’re Canadian and haven’t read this book and are looking to learn more about the past, then put down those history books…”The Orenda” is better. 

What are your thoughts on this book? Do you think it has lived up to being a dominant narrative? 

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