Joseph Boyden does an amazing job of teaching his readers about the place and people of the era he writes about. I am in awe of how he gets into the mind of a "Crow" (Christophe) to show us the New World through the mind of a Catholic priest who is trying to convert the Hurons.
He shifts to the mind of a young Iroquois girl(Snow Fall) who was taken from her family after they were killed in front of her. She fights not to "belong' to Bird. Her people killed Bird's family leaving him wanting to keep Snow Fall to replace his daughters.
And finally he writes as an older warrior (Bird) who is well respected by his people but who lost his whole family in a battle with Snow Falls' people. He carries the sadness of their deaths with him everyday.
Joseph Boyden's gift for switching between these three different characters, telling us about the same scene or carrying the plot forward for all three characters, is masterful.
I have selected a part of a book review to share here since it says really well what I think about this book as contender for the winner. It is going to be a challenge for the other books in the list to beat this one as the Canada Reads choice for 2014.
The Orenda comes to us almost a year after the Idle No More movement drew Canadians’ attention to the fact (which should be obvious) that, while we share this land with its original keepers, we have a dismal history of subjugating them. Boyden frames each of the novel’s three parts with short laments written in the collective voice of native people for a time when they had and understood the orenda. This prophetic writing positions Boyden’s novel as both a dream in the spiritual, native sense and a wake-up call in our more alarmist, modern one. It’s an attempt at, if not truth, then at least a reconciliation between the past and present of this land.
Reviewed by Kamal Al-Solaylee (from the October 2013 issue)
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