Nominated by:

Calgary Public Library, Canada

Edmonton Public Library, Canada

Halifax Public Library, Canada

Ottawa Public Library, Canada

Saint John Free Public Library, New Brunswick, Canada

Vancouver Public Library, Canada

Winnipeg Public Library, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Penguin Books, Canada

The Orenda

Joseph Boyden      

2015 Longlist

The Orenda opens with the kidnapping of Snow Falls, a spirited Iroquois girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. Although it’s been years since the murder of his family members, they’re never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter; he sees that the girl possesses powerful magic, something useful to him and his people on the troubled road ahead. The Huron Nation has battled the Iroquois for as long as Bird can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous peril from afar.

Christophe does not see himself as a threat, however. A charismatic Jesuit missionary, he has found his calling amongst the Huron, devoting himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. As an emissary from distant lands, he brings much more, though, than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance one another through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars, and a nation emerges from worlds in flux. Powerful and deeply moving, The Orenda traces a story of blood and hope, suspicion and trust, hatred and love. A saga nearly four hundred years old, it is at its roots timeless and eternal.

(From Publisher)

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.

Librarians’ Comments

This masterful historical epic is set in mid-17th century Huronia, during a period of brutal skirmishes between the Huron and the Iroquois, just as the Catholics launch their campaign to convert Aboriginal peoples. A fascinating glimpse of what it felt like to live at the sharp end of the spear of European conquest (Publisher’s Weekly). A stunning, heartbreaking work of staggering depth and appeal, destined to become a Canadian classic.

Boyden explores Canada’s early history through the voices of three memorable characters. “Great art can’t help drawing us into one longhouse, one great force, and then daring us to deny the commonalities. To declare The Orenda fresh and new and free of colonial residue would be accurate, but arid praise. Better to call it a great heartbreaking novel, full of fierce action and superb characters and an unblinking humanity.” Charles Foran – The Globe & Mail.

The Orenda is an epic historical novel that examines an incredibly brutal time in Canada’s history in an unflinching manner that illuminates the spirit of First Nations peoples. Literary reviewers have declared this to be a classic of 21st century Canadian fiction.

A heartrending and visceral portrayal of what it would have been like when the natives met the Europeans in the Northern Americas. Different voices from 3 disparate narrators makes for a compelling voyage into a distant culture. Boyden’s graceful writing reveals a passion for a story that seems to burn up the pages, and leaves the reader gasping from the realization of what life was in this brutal and almost primordial time when cultures clashed, and our native culture started to wither from oppression and abuse.

The Orenda is a powerful, often intensely graphic recreation of a little known but critical period of Canadian history. Three compelling narrators create an unsettling moral ambiguity that continues to resonate in contemporary Canadian society. Shortlisted for the 2013 Governor General’s Award for English Fiction, long listed for the 2013 Scotia Bank Giller Prize, winner of the (nationwide) Canada Reads contest, having been selected as a finalist by readers nationwide, and a favourite with local Saint John readers.

The Orenda imagines the Huron people in Canada in the mid-1600s during French colonization. It explores the relationships between the Huron, Jesuit missionaries, and the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), the struggle for survival in a challenging natural environment, differing concepts of spirituality and the brutality of the period. It was selected for Canada Reads 2014, seeking a novel that could inspire social change. While controversial, it has sparked conversation about a challenging time in our nations’ history, demonstrated by the 560 library patrons currently waiting for 82 copies of the book at our library.

Boyden masterfully describes the struggle to survive bitter winters, tribal warfare and the clash of European and Indigenous cultures and gives the reader a visceral understanding of Canada’s early history.

Related Entries