I’m going back to my roots with this one.
I come from a Native background and I am Canadian. I hate what my country has done to my ancestors (as any decent human being should), and The Orenda by Joseph Boyden angered me. It angered me because it was beautifully written, and it perfectly described the situation aboriginal people faced five hundred years ago when the British invaded. Because yes, they did invade. The Orenda is never preachy. It does not explicitly try to argue that life was better before the invasion, or that life became better after it; the novel simply describes the lives of the people who lived through this time, and it lays down their history as they lived it.
What I admire most is the writing style. The Orenda has 3 protagonists- Bird, Snow Falls, and Christopher Crow- and each protagonist speaks to the reader in first person. Their voices all blend together, but they are each utterly unique. When you begin the novel, there is no indication that one is reading from the point of view of a new character (such as naming the chapter the narrator’s name), yet it is clear from the start when the narrator shifts because each voice is completely different. I am very impressed with how the author is able to convey voice so seamlessly and evenly; I did not once find one story and one narrator more interesting than the others. Each character is strong, brave, beautiful, and an individual.
The Orenda may be a book of fiction, but it is based in fact. The life that Bird, the Crows, and Snow Falls lived are full of experiences that real people faced hundred of years ago. This is where the tragedy of the novel lies. It is easy to claim that the novel is fiction, and it is easy to brush it off as nothing more. But if one remembers that these plots where based on real lives, then one if filled with absolute heartbreak.
It didn’t have to be this way. But it was.
4 Orendas out of 5.