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The Orenda [Hardcover]

Joseph Boyden
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 10 2013

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 that 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 among 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 with 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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"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

“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.

“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

“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.” - National Post

"A stunning, masterful work of staggering depth, possibly the first truly great Canadian novel of this century." - Vancouver Sun

"In what has already been a banner year for Canadian fiction, Joseph Boyden has just stepped decisively to the head of the class." - Montreal Gazette

"An epic worthy of Herodotus or Sima Qian…The Orenda declares it an equal to any ancient Greek or Chinese account of empires rising and falling. . . a great, heartbreaking novel, full of fierce action and superb characters and an unblinking humanity." - Globe and Mail

“Epic in scope, exquisite in execution . . . A fascinating glimpse of what it felt like to live at the sharp end of the spear of European conquest.” - Publisher’s Weekly

About the Author

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 in Canada First Novel Award, and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize and named the Canadian Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year; it also earned him the CBA’s Author of the Year Award. His most recent novel, The Orenda, won Canada Reads and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Boyden divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read! Oct. 4 2013
By Tammy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Joseph Boyden proves once again, he has a clear understanding of our First Nations history. This was an incredible read! I LOVED the Three Day Road and was sure that Joseph wouldn't be able to top it. He was able to weave another incredible story, I want to keep on reading Joseph! Keep up the wonderous stories that make me so proud of my aboriginal heritage!
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and moving Sept. 19 2013
By CatDew
At first I found it a little difficult to get into, perhaps because the characters seemed somewhat difficult to relate to. I was also worried that it could end up being too dryly historical. Before long, though, the characters had completely seduced me. I found myself putting my life on hold because I became part of a very different world and could not stop reading until the end. This book is by turns savage and gentle, universal and personal, and, finally, incredibly moving. When I closed the back cover I had tears on my cheeks and a shift in the way I look at culture, spirit and history.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book of the Year Oct. 16 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of those rare, magical stories that brings you deeply into another world so thoroughly that you mourn the moment you read the last line. Boyden's ability to weave history, humanity, compassion, revenge, bravery, and horror into a brilliantly written and at the same time intimately told story is truly phenomenal.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless and imperative novel Oct. 19 2013
By Lorina Stephens TOP 500 REVIEWER
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top tier Oct. 8 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Just finished this brilliant novel and feel like I was punched in the gut. I'm still reverberating from the emotion and drama.

Boyden succeeds in recreating the atmosphere of early 16th Century discovery of New France and the volatile convergence of cultures between the Huron, Iroquois, French and Jesuits. Rich characterization, dialogue and an unjaundiced eye make this a superb, compelling and rewarding read. Highest recommendation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent History Lesson March 8 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"The Orenda" has just recently received the "Canada Reads" award as the book that all Canadians should read.... I can't think of another book more deserving. The historical accuracy, the depth of insight into the struggles of the First Nations people learning to live side-by-side with their new European neighbours, the struggles with the new religious mandates imposed on the First People. It's all here in a fascinating, can't put it down, story. The ending is excellent, upsetting, but perfect. Don't want to spoil anything... read the book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Orenda Dec 18 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Simply one of the best books I have read and there is some tough competition in that group. This deserves to be a Canadian classic
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Tale Oct. 12 2014
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
“The Orenda” is a fictionalized account that takes place in central Ontario around the mid 1600’s and covers the last years of the Huron Confederacy after they have formed a trade relationship with the French and before their dispersal by the Iroquois.

The story is told from three perspectives and this multi-narrative technique works especially well re-telling the same episode from each point of view. In no particular order, the narrators are: Christophe, a francophone Jesuit missionary: Snow Falls, an Iroquois teen kidnapped by the Huron and Bird, a warrior mourning the death of his family. In a haunting manner,Mr. Boyden expertly evokes and mirrors the cycle of destruction. The novel is punctuated by acts of cruelty, savagery, torture and climaxes in a bloody battle, definitely not a story for the squeamish. It is written with unflinching honesty to convey the complexity of the colonial experience and chronicles the mounting rivalry between the Nations, the process of colonization, fur trade, the effect of Christianity, deaths by small pox and other diseases, and the competition between the French and English settlers. A lot of attention was given to detail and I really wonder if the Haudenosaunee and Wendat Nations are truly represented? Or is this simply a well-written, highly imaginative, and pleasant reading material to trump the uncomfortable examination of colonization

Having said this, “The Orenda” is nevertheless a wonderful tale of spiritual conflict and a real page turner.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stellar and Profound Read!
I so rarely find books that are 5 star anymore (especially those recommended by CBC Radio) so I was extremely pleased to finally read a book that I couldn't put down and had very... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Shepherdess Extraordinaire
5.0 out of 5 stars spellbinding and vivid
I found this book to command my attention for hours on end. It takes the reader on a journey through years, lost plans, found families and manages to take a long ago challenge and... Read more
Published 4 days ago by k. salmon
5.0 out of 5 stars haunting...
this story will stay with me for a long...long time

I wish I could give it more than 5 stars...

beautifully written... Read more
Published 5 days ago by may777
5.0 out of 5 stars The Orenda. A story that needed to be told
This beautifully written book is both gripping and horrifying. The violence is gut wrenching but never, even the slightest bit, gratuitous. Read more
Published 6 days ago by teach
5.0 out of 5 stars heartwrenchingly beautiful account of the demise of a native tribe and...
Beautifully developed characters draw you into the story which haunts you even after you finish the book. A must read!
Published 14 days ago by Jenny A.Gray
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I enjoyed this book from beginning to end
Published 25 days ago by Steve Walintschek
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended!
Superb book, highly recommended!
Published 28 days ago by Nadine Kirk
4.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Boyden is an excellent story-teller. The details in this book...
Joseph Boyden is an excellent story-teller. The details in this book are sometimes too graphic and bloody for me; however, I learned a lot about the treatment of First Nations... Read more
Published 29 days ago by annabella
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. And Wow
Amazing Book! If you are only boom to read one book this year, what is wrong with you? And this should be that book! But really? One Book in a year? Come on, you can do better! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Keith Bartlett
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read. Well written but a brutal subject
An excellent read. Well written but a brutal subject.
Published 1 month ago by Brian D. Thompson
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