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The Orenda: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 13, 2014
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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*Starred Review* A noteworthy literary achievement, Boyden’s mesmerizing third novel sits at the confluence of three civilizations in seventeenth-century Ontario. The narration alternates among Bird, a Wendat (Huron) warrior; Snow Falls, the young Iroquois captive he adopts after killing her family to avenge his wife and daughters; and Père Christophe, a thoughtfully intelligent, multilingual Jesuit missionary. Over some years, as the growing French presence in the New World upsets a fragile balance and threats from the Iroquois become urgent, the French and Wendat move toward alliance, which, tragically, increases the latter’s susceptibility to European diseases. In this deeply researched work, Boyden captures his characters’ disparate beliefs, remaining impartial even as they pass judgment on the customs they find simultaneously fascinating and repellent in the others. The prose conveys a raw beauty in its depictions of trade journeys, daily life within longhouses, and spirituality; the Huron Feast of the Dead, for example, is presented as a majestic symphony of reverence. The scenes of ritual torture are difficult to read, and the novel offers many intense impressions of cross-cultural conflicts and differences, yet it is most affecting when evoking its protagonists’ shared humanity and the life force—the “orenda”—burning brightly within each of them. --Sarah Johnson
“Magnificent. . . an extraordinary work of art, savage and beautiful. It immerses us in an ancient culture and chronicles a period of catastrophic change. . . . Boyden’s profound comprehension of and compassion for all his characters invite us to acknowledge the wholeness of the life force [called] “the orenda”: a unity encompassing cruelty and kindness, ignorance and understanding, inevitable sorrow and joy. . . . The clash of civilizations assumes personal dimensions [through his] charismatic, flawed and achingly human protagonists.” —Wendy Smith, The Washington Post
“Profoundly spiritual [with] an epic quality [and] a gorgeous simplicity in service of this transcendent tale. . . . a rare reading experience that stayed with me even when away from the book and long after I finished reading it.” —David Takami, The Seattle Times
“The Orenda is a heart song that spans the continent, and echoes to us across the years. At times devastating and difficult, Joseph Boyden’s novel is equally compassionate and inspiring.” —Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“I tend to approach historical fiction with a certain reluctance to suspend disbelief, yet a few paragraphs into The Orenda I was so thoroughly absorbed in Joseph Boyden’s recreation of the moment of first contact between Old World and New that I was digging my nails into my palms. It's a thoroughly beautiful, brilliantly imagined and terrifying novel that seems to tell us something fresh and original about the tragic collision that shaped our continent.” —Jay McInerney
“Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda is a sublime, haunting, and harrowing achievement—a work of fiction, of art, of myth-making at its very finest.” —Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
“Years from now, The Orenda will be called a classic, but for now Joseph Boyden will have to settle for visionary, majestic, awe-inspiring. The prose is incandescent—and the cultural, tribal, spiritual battles are as gripping as anything I have ever read. There is magic in these pages that will convince you there is magic in the world.” —Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon, The Wilding, and Refresh, Refresh
“It is Joseph Boyden’s characters that stay with a reader. So generously drawn and flawed and honest in their cruelties and compassion and righteousness and sacrifice, in their embrace of family, their reach toward spirit. The Orenda is truly a magical accomplishment, rendered vividly in scenes of water and earth and blood.” —Mark Spragg, author of An Unfinished Life and Bone Fire
“Spellbinding. . . Epic in scope, exquisite in execution.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Mesmerizing. . . In this deeply researched work, Boyden captures his characters’ disparate beliefs, remaining impartial even as they pass judgment on the customs they find simultaneously fascinating and repellent in the others. The prose conveys a raw beauty in its depictions of trade journeys, daily life within longhouses, and spirituality. . . [The Orenda] offers many intense impressions of cross-cultural conflicts and differences, yet it is most affecting when evoking its protagonists’ shared humanity and life force—the “orenda”—burning brightly within each of them.” —Sarah Johnson, Booklist (starred review)
“Dignified and penetrating.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“A stunning, masterful work of staggering depth. . . it is like nothing you have ever read, and read it you must. . . . The Orenda is a feat, an achievement [that] is impossible to read without coming away profoundly shaken, possibly changed.” – Robert J. Wiersema, The Vancouver Sun
“Profoundly researched and told in elegant, muscular prose. . . a great, heartbreaking novel, full of fierce action and superb characters and an unblinking humanity.” —Charles Foran, The Globe and Mail
“[A] stunning historical epic. . . the entire novel unfolds like one of the Huron’s mystical visions. We experience their world in such tremendous detail [and] come away with a sense of intimacy and a respect . . . Boyden’s innate respect for his characters—aboriginal and European—translates into a powerful and convincing depiction of both faiths.” —Donna Bailey Nurse, The Windsor Star
Top customer reviews
This was simply a tale of different people coming together. It took me places and prescribed thoughts to which I had no notion I would ever have. I found beauty in the sacrifice of human beings. I found strength through courage. I was exposed to feelings that were both alien and primitive through my immersion into the written pages of this novel. I think, I understood some of the practices that many of us have just read about through the state-sponsored glass of official "history." It was exhilarating to travel back into time, so far away from the bounds and knowledge of our modern man.
This book is very good. Monsters and heroes abide everywhere: I didn't have a rooting interest in any of the characters to start and cared about them all at the end.
presents us with a world or characters and, while captivating us with its exploration of these, gives us at least a few timeless passages that help us better understand our own. This book does not. The rest of my thoughts about it are well expressed by other three star reviews.
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Gary De Carolis
Burlington, VT History Tours