The Orenda by Joseph Boyden is the winner of Canada Reads 2014. This post is very late, as I hadn’t finished the book until this past weekend. This novel was defended by Wab Kinew who is “an award winning journalist, [an] aboriginal activist and [a] hip-hop artist” (http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads/wab-kinew-defends-the-orenda-by-joseph-boyden.html).
This novel was difficult to read, not because of the language, but rather the truth behind Boyden’s words. (It is important to note, however, that this novel is historical fiction). The Orenda is a very graphic novel that does not shy away from blood and torture (which was Stephen Lewis’ main argument against it). The “Orenda” is described as the soul or entity of an object or person. Everything has an Orenda, and we must always take time to thank or apologize to the Orenda of someone or something that we have used or killed.
Boyden has written this novel through the voices of three distinct Characters. The firs is Bird—a fearless and respected warrior of the Huron tribe, whose family has been savagely murdered by some combatants of the Haudenosaunee tribe. In return, Bird fights many of the Haudenosaunee tribe and captures and claims our second voice, Snow Falls. Snow Falls begins in this narrative, as an untamed animal that has a hard time accepting the fact that her family has been murdered. Although she is adopted as Bird daughter, she can’t help but find any opportunity to make him angry. One of these opportunities happens to be the befriending of a Jesuit and our third voice, Christopher or Crow, as Bird calls him. Crow is a priest from New France who has been sent on a mission to convert these “sauvages” to Christianity. Boyden cleverly writes in each of these characters voice, and unravels the story which is their lives.
The theme of Canada Reads 2014 was “What is the novel that could change Canada?”, The Orenda does this by bringing to life a history that is often ignored or hidden. Boyden’s words are both captivating and beautiful, but I must stress that this novel is incredibly violent. With this violence, Boyden does a remarkable job at not placing blame directly on anyone for the tragedy that happens. However, this novel both enrages the reader, and opens a passage to a tragic history that we must attempt to face today.
This novel is a wonderful read that will expand your knowledge of Canada.