The OrendaThe Orenda by Joseph Boyden  (historical fiction)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boyden’s “Three Day Road” is one of my favorite books, and this one is not that, but it’s a very good and important book none-the-less.

The Orenda is an disturbing read as the story itself is devastating on so many levels. Yet, life and light manage to shine through brutal reality as the author skillfully reimagines the 17th century collision of the Huron, Iroquois and French Jesuit missionaries.

The characters and cultures are believably complex, and I’m thankful Boyden refrained from the lure of either a demonizing or lionizing rhetoric that could easily stain a work that hopes to illuminate empathetically.

It’s a specific story about a specific time and place. It is at once brutal and beautiful. It saddens and burdens the spirit. It dignifies and criticizes the characters and their world-views. It helps the reader to understand the complex, profound tragedy of early First Nation and Settler relations. And, perhaps most importantly, it invites grief, empathy and compassion, and subtely suggests a pathway for healing and redemption.

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