The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

What appealed to me about the Secret Book Club was receiving a book which would propel me into a new world of books and reading. We all have staid reading habits when it comes to books and I wanted something to get me out of that groove. I have enjoyed the same books since childhood; historical romances, Tudor biographies and books about strong women from the  past. 

I was expecting ‘The Orenda’ to be a sweeping saga of romance, history and adventure. I was hoping for a book from a different time and geographical area; but ‘The Orenda’ was a step too far out of my comfort zone. Initially, I was excited about the prospect of enjoying a book about the New World in the 1640s, and Joseph Boyden has won awards for this novel. Surely then, this was a good place to start for someone new to this type of book. However, my plan did not work out as I had imagined.

Two tribes are pitted against each other during a massacre and kidnapping of a young girl. The story is told from the viewpoint of the girl, her captor Bird, who lost his family in a murder himself, and Christophe, a missionary who is dedicated to learning all about the tribe’s customs and culture.

The book attempts to grip you from the start with detailed explanations and events. You instantly feel intimately involved and invested in the events. However, I didn’t find myself feeling very sympathetic towards any of the characters. Instead, I felt I didn’t like their actions nor their personalities. They all had different plights and viewpoints, but none managed to appeal to me in the way I imagine the author intended.

I am not generally a fan of long, rambling narratives, something which you can’t escape from in this book. Indeed, it was becoming more and more arduous with every page. I should have been more prepared for the ending; it was rather shocking to me, and I was glad in a way that I had not gotten emotionally involved with the narrators. As I hadn’t enjoyed the book thus far, I was left feeling glad in a sense that the conclusion involved some action, but I felt that to a reader who had enjoyed the book, they would feel robbed and disappointed at the ending. I had felt the ongoing rambling very boring and I just wanted to get to the end of the book as quickly as possible.

Jospeh Boyden is clearly a gifted storyteller, and I can see why the book has been an award winner and a success for him in his field and genre. It is just not to my personal taste. Although I admit to a new interest in reading books about the New World, I will be taking that interest elsewhere. I fear I will be retreating back into my book comfort zone!

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