Write Reads #25 The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

orendaHot on the heels of gaining a bunch of new listeners, Tania and Kirt tread in tricky territory in this one. The Orenda is probably one of the “biggest” books we’ve tackled. Do we bring anything new to the table? Take a listen and let us know. We hope this podcast generates some discussion, and maybe even some debate. Maybe you’ll just enjoy it, at least.

Tania’s pick for our next podcast (after analyzing her poll results and consulting with her cats) will be And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier. You can participate with Canada Reads and Write Reads at the same time! Two birds with one stone!

Other books mentioned in the podcast:

Booktubers, authors, and articles mentioned in this podcast:

About writereads

A Canadian book club podcast that will change the world of literature forever.
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8 Responses to Write Reads #25 The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

  1. Naomi says:

    I am so relieved that you both liked this one – I was worried I would have to desperately defend it. 🙂 I completely agree about the violence being appropriate, and I loved what you said about the most violent act in the book being the tearing away of The Orenda.
    I also wholly approve of your next book selection, and can’t wait to hear what you think of it. (You better both like that one, too. :))

    • writereads says:

      Thanks for listening. The book presents a lot of tough topics to talk about, but as a work of fiction, I think it’s very strong. And I really do believe that the spiritual violence was far more disturbing than any of the revenge scenes.
      And regarding our next choice, your threat has been heard and registered 🙂 -Tania

  2. lauratfrey says:

    I finally listened to this (always takes me 3 or 4 tries!) and now it’s days later and forget what I wanted to comment about. I think it was to agree with Tania about something? What were you guys arguing about? 🙂

    I do remember you mentioned Black Robe and I’m glad you did. I read Black Robe somewhat recently and noticed many parallels but The Orenda works better for so many reasons. The violence in Black Robe was also much more disturbing. There were a lot of scenes with violence against children in that book and I wonder, did Boyden make a choice not to go there because it didn’t really happen, or he just didn’t want to portray it? Too difficult for modern readers to deal with? It was for me, there’s one scene in BR that I will never get out of my head and I wish I could.

    I also just finished a biography of Champlain and there were a lot of interesting parallels there too. Maybe I will write about them one day!!

    The only problem I had with this book is that the writing was SO strong in the opening and it never really got back to that level. I’m thinking of the scene where Snow Falls is lying in the snow and Christophe misinterprets. Great image, great symbolism, beautifully written. I felt the writing after that point was a little plain.

    Great job guys, glad you liked it!

    • writereads says:

      Interesting that you felt that the writing was stronger in the beginning whereas I felt it got stronger later on. But I did love that scene of misinterpretation!
      I do agree that even though much was made of the violence, that it really wasn’t as disturbing as many other books I’ve read and it added to the story, it wasn’t unnecessary or gratuitous in any way.
      I would be very curious to read more about Champlain but I’m too lazy about reading non-fiction so I hope you post about it 🙂 -Tania

    • writereads says:

      I wasn’t even aware that I had noticed that about the writing at the beginning being “better”. You’re right, though. It’s as if the story gained so much urgency that there was no room for such subtlety. – Kirt

    • writereads says:

      Even though you didn’t agree with me, about whatever it was we were arguing about, or whatever. (If I was Tania there would be an emoticon of some sort thrown in there (Maybe the tongue sticking out one (but with a smile))) – Kirt

  3. Great podcast! I would like to mention that the only reason I read this book was because of this podcast. Being a selfish man, in many ways, when everybody starts telling me that a book is great and I’d like it, I tend to avoid it. The Orenda is one I am glad I did not avoid, so thank you for compelling me to be a part of the club and partake.
    That out of the way, I will stick with Tania and keep what I thought to the minimum of its work as a piece of fiction, and not as “historical fiction”.

    I do not know much about Canadian history. This is a shame because I am Canadian. I was never a good student in school. Reading this book has made me more fascinated in our history though, and I think that’s a good thing. I want to know more about native cultures and their stories, I want to know more about colonization and how that all ties into what makes us who we are.

    Like you guys were saying, this book had a lot to do with violence. Whether or not the natives were really all that aggressively violent, as portrayed in the book (as some of the debate circling the work entails), it became really evident to me that there was at least some truth in it. Like Kirt was saying, every culture has its violence. And also like Kirt was saying, all one has to do is look in the mirror. We are all capable of violence because we are all human. Whether that violence pokes its little head during a bad day at work or for the revenge of a murdered family, the violence is there because it is always there. Suppression or sanctification indeed! And then there’s kickboxing.

    But you know what really stuck with me from the story? The humanity of it. Bird and Snow Falls and Christoph Crow were such damned humans, weren’t they? No one was perfect, everyone had their temptations, and everyone had a moral compass that directed what they do, which sometimes they acted in spite of. All were heroic in one way or another, and all were brash. Boyden did one thing right for sure, and that was making characters so vivid that they stick with you long after the book is closed.

    As for its work as a piece of fiction, that is what I judge it by. How far did the story move my heart? Did it take me anywhere that I will long remember? Does it make me a better human being somehow? I think it does all of those things.

    I agree with both of you about Gosling though, and loved the debate about it! Gosling, to me, almost made me as uncomfortable as she made the Crow! The fact that it was “historical fiction” threw me for a loop when suddenly there was magic. Like Kirt, it didn’t bother me, but maybe different from Kirt, here’s why: call me an old soul, but I believe in magic. I believe that there are mysteries in the universe that I do not know all the answers to, and when Gosling made thunder clap around the longhouse, I was frightened too. It made me think that there was mystery then as there is now. How much of it was tricks and how much of it was psychology in the minds of the witnesses, and yet how much of it was authentic? We’ll never know. The story is true because sometimes things like that happen and you have to make a choice about what to believe. It was a delight to read an author who didn’t prophesise their worldview. Boyden made a scenario where the reader had to make a decision about what they themselves believed. I thought that was masterful! And how the Crow struggled with the Devil after punishing himself for letting that family die (even though it was clear he didn’t intend to do that), I believed that too. Like Tania said, there was magic on both sides of the fence. Both sides had mystery.

    But I will drag this comment on no further. Hopefully next time I can comment before the podcast!

    The last thing I want to say is that The Orenda was a great story and the ending had me in tears. For a selfish man in many ways, it was a pleasure to shed tears for the story of someone else, even if they were concocted madly in Boyden’s imagination. It was a pleasure to experience even a mere artist’s rendering of the strength in our Canadian heritage, and a privilege to partake, even in some small way, in its tragedy.

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