Earlier this week, Joseph Boyden opened his public reading here by confiding to the audience that he wasn’t supposed to read from his new work, but he was going to anyway. Then he dropped us right into a graphically violent scene involving his three protagonists, a scene he describes as, “a car chase from the 1600s.” The Orenda, Boyden’s newest novel, is set in the 1600s at the intersection of First Nations and Canadian history. The book is expected to be out in September, and I know that everyone who was in that room with me will want to know what happens to the three characters we were briefly introduced to: a Haudenosaunee, a Huron-Wendat, and a Jesuit.
Boyden won the Giller Prize for his second novel, Through Black Spruce, and he’s been in our Leighton Artists’ Colony this week on a Paul D. Fleck Fellowship through Indigenous Arts, editing his new novel. I met him the day after his reading. For one thing, I wanted to know what he felt standing in front of us and reading from The Orenda. “It was fun to read but it was a little nerve-wracking,” he tells me. ”You feel like a brand new writer again. Despite any little success I might have had, it’s all new again.” He’s clear that The Orenda stands alone (it’s not the third book in the trilogy that includes Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce) though fans may find an interesting connection to his previous novels.