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The Orenda
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The Orenda
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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...
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...
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  • 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 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 amongst 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 each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    HUNTED

    I awake. A few minutes, maybe, of troubled sleep. My teeth chatter so violently I can taste I've bitten my swollen tongue. Spitting red into the snow, I try to rise but my body's seized. The oldest Huron, their leader, who kept us walking all night around the big lake rather than across it because of some ridiculous dream, stands above me with a thorn club. The weight these men give their dreams will be the end of them.

    Although I still know little of their language, I understand the words he whispers and force myself to roll over when the club swings toward me. The thorns bite into my back and the bile of curses that pour from my mouth make the Hurons convulse with laughter. I am sorry, Lord, to use Your name in vain.

    They'd all be screaming with glee, pointing and holding their bellies, if we weren't being hunted. With a low sun rising and the air so cold, noise travels. They are clearly fed up with the young Iroquois girl who never stopped whimpering the entire night. Her face is swollen and, when I see her lying in the snow, I fear they killed her while I slept.

    Not long ago, just before first light, we'd all paused to rest, the leader and his handful of hunters stopping as if they'd planned this in advance, the pack of them collapsing against one another for the heat. They whispered among themselves, and a couple glanced over at me. Although I couldn't decipher their rushed speech, I sensed they talked of leaving me here, probably with the girl, who at that moment sat with her back to a birch, staring as if in a dream. Or maybe they talked of killing us. We had slowed them down all night, and despite trying to walk quietly I'd stumbled in the dark through the thick brush and tripped over fallen trees buried in the snow. At one point I removed my snowshoes because they were so clumsy, but then sank up to my hips in the next steps, and one of the hunters had to pull me out, biting me hard on the face once he'd accomplished the deed.

    Now the snow covering the lake glows the colour of a robin's egg as sunlight tries to break through cloud. If I live through this day I will always remember to pay attention to the tickle of dryness at the back of my throat at this moment, the feeling of a bad headache coming. I've just begun to walk to the girl to offer her comfort, if she's still alive, when a dog's howl breaks the silence, its excitement in picking up our scent making me want to throw up. Other dogs answer it. I forget how my toes have begun to blacken, that I've lost so much weight I can barely support my gaunt frame, that my chest has filled with a sickness that's turned my skin yellow.

    I know dogs, though. As in my old world, they are one of the few things in this new one that bring me comfort. And this pack's still a long way away, their voices travelling easy in the frozen air. When I bend to help the girl up, I see the others have already disappeared into the shadows of trees and thick brush.

    My terror of being left behind for those chasing me, who will make sure my death is slow and painful, is so powerful that I now weigh taking my own life. I know exactly what I must do. Asking Your divine mercy for this, I will strip naked and walk out onto the lake. I calculate how long all this will take. It's my second winter in the new world, after all, and my first one I witnessed the brutality of death by freezing. The first ten minutes, as the pack races closer and closer, will certainly be the most excruciating. My skin will at first feel as if it's on fire, like I'm being boiled in a pot. Only one thing is more painful than these early minutes of freezing, and it's the thawing out, every tendril of the body screaming for...

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 Amazon.ca/Books 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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 21, 2013
    Epic in scope, exquisite in execution, Boyden’s spellbinding third novel tells the story of the French conquest of Canada from the point of view of both the conquerors and the conquered. Boyden, winner of the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Through Black Spruce, here divides his story between three narrators, two of them aboriginal, the third a French Jesuit missionary based loosely on Jean de Brebeuf, recognized as a saint following his martyrdom at the hands of the Iroquois. Set in the early 1600s, as the French were exploring today’s Canadian province of Ontario, Boyden’s narrative depicts in compelling detail how the French exploited ancient enmities between the Iroquois and Huron tribes to speed their conquest of New France. The novel abounds in riveting battle scenes and stomach-turning physical torture, but it shines most brightly in quieter passages that root the reader firmly in daily life in a tribal village where the spectre of famine and enemy attack compete with rich family life and a powerful spiritual attachment to the land. This is a long novel, and some readers may balk at the graphic torture sequences, but those who stay the course will be rewarded with a fascinating glimpse of what it felt like to live at the sharp end of the spear of European conquest. Agent: Eric Simonoff

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