The Orenda

by Joseph Boyden

The Orenda CoverWith Joseph Boyden coming to town very soon (tonight, actually, at the time of writing this review), I felt I should read through one of his works in order to really get something out of his talk. As such, I reluctantly put down John Updike’s The Coup in order to start The Orenda. Now, some stories are a slow burn, building gradually until the eventual––hopefully exciting––climax, whereas others are quick out of the gate. I am happy to report that The Orenda belongs to the latter, hooking me within the first five pages, enticing me to read further in the most expeditious fashion.

The nature of this hook was in part due to the extreme action and immediacy of the peril threatening to befall the main characters right from the get-go, but also can be attributed to the author’s unique narrative technique, to which he very quickly showcases his tremendous skills with regard to storytelling. The story jumps between the point-of-view of three characters, with the switch occurring between chapters. This may sound like a confusing thing to do, especially given the intensity of plot, but Boyden makes it readily apparent who is now in charge of the narration. This technique is most effective early on in the story, when the great degree of differences in perceptions between characters are readily apparent––specifically between characters who do not speak the same language.

Unfortunately, the source of this praise becomes a liability later on. As characters come to a greater understanding of each other, their viewpoints differ less and less over the course of the plot––perhaps intentional, nonetheless damaging. As well, very little as the story progresses seems to match the initial intensity I speak of; Boyden makes commendable attempts at a truly epic finish, but nothing managed to top the start of the tale in my mind. Despite this, I enjoyed The Orenda immensely and can’t wait to hear what the author has to say this evening.