The Orenda – Joseph Boyden


The first European settlement in Ontario, Canada, was called Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons in the 1600’s. At that time, there was a constant state of war between the Wendat people (Huron) and the Iroquois. Raiding parties would harass each other on a regular basis. Trade between natives and Europeans at the time relied on furs.

Also, during those terrible times, there were Jesuits trying to bring Christianity to the native communities allied with the Hurons while the Iroquois stood firmly against them.

The situation was worsened by the fact that the Iroquois were given muskets in trade with the English while the Hurons had to make do with kettles, knives, hatchets and trinkets. The fighting escalated to the point where it became serious and historically known as the Fur Wars.

Joseph Boyden wrote The Orenda using that period of time as the base for his fictional story and I found it to be both riveting and frightening at the same time. Knowing the factual story about Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons before beginning to read his book had me feeing tense, holding back taking peeks at chapters still unread and seriously being afraid for the characters he develops so well.

There are no real ‘good guys’ in this novel. All have their shortcomings and cruel intentions. What the reader is left with is to parse who was the least cruel, which is the beauty of this book.

I wholly promote this book. ‘The Orenda’ is important.

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2 Responses to The Orenda – Joseph Boyden

  1. susanhay says:

    Hi Tony:

    Keith is reading this book right now as well. Joseph Boyden is an excellent writer; we’ve read both “Through Black Spruce” and “Three Day Road”, also worthwhile reads. I read everything on my Kobo now. I must admit I passed over the Orenda when I read the preview, thinking it sounded too grisly for me but now I think I may go for it.


    • masqua says:

      I completely understand your apprehension on reading The Orenda. There are short, but horrifying chapters sprinkled throughout the book, but, far more important are those portions dealing with a serious attempt at providing an understanding of people confronted with opposing cultures. Overall, I found it a sensitive read.

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