Originally published January 4th, 2015
The Orenda. It’s hard to start a book knowing in advance there is no happy ending. At first, I didn’t think I would be able to finish this book. I have a hard time with torture, violence, or gore. All appear here in spades. Eventually it seemed to get less painful, and I’m assuming that I just became numb to it. Consider yourself warned if you have a weak stomach, and keep the tissues close by while reading this book. But do read it. Boyden has done a masterful job recreating the world of the Iroquois, Huron, and Jesuit missionaries from Canada’s earliest days. Even knowing in advance what the overall end of the story would be, I couldn’t put down the book. It was heart-breaking reading about these incredible people and their beautiful culture and knowing you were watching the beginning of the end unfold in front of you, with no way to stop or change it. That even when people tried their best to do good so often the results were further rifts between their cultures that only brought the end closer. It was impressive to resurface from their world and realize Boyden had managed to make characters I really disliked at the beginning sympathetic and admirable, in spite of all their flaws. Without my even noticing he was doing it. Without whitewashing over the serious divisions between them, he still knits them together in a way that felt realistic and true to each character’s self. Amazing.
There isn’t a happy ending for this book, but I can’t quite give up hope that if we work together we can make one for ourselves.