The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, a Canada Reads 2014 selection, is a powerful book. It takes place in Canada, in the early 1600-1700s when white fur traders and Jesuit priests first started arriving in First Nations territory. The interactions between the natives and the white Europeans is fascinating and complicated. Also complicated is the relationships between tribes, competing for territory, trade routes, and access to power and wealth. Sound familiar? It's a very typical human story, our tendencies and abilities to become violent and render harm on others. And to also love and be generous and tender. Humans are complicated beings!
I found this book sometimes hard to read due to the violent nature of the interactions between tribe and tribe and between tribes and whites. At the same time it was fascinating to be immersed in the First Nations cultures, and to try to piece together how and why things happened as they did. The story is told from the perspective of three people, a young native girl who is captured by the Wendat tribe, a Jesuit priest, and an adult man whose family was killed and wants the captive girl to become his new daughter.
They tell the stories as they would tell stories, not as they would explain a culture, which is why sometimes I had to puzzle and try to figure out how their culture felt or why they did certain things. A fascinating inside look, which the reader also gets (with a different twist) from the perspective of the Jesuit priest.
This is a dynamic book, giving the reader much to ponder. Fascinating, powerful, difficult, lovely... a 5-star, marvelous creation.
Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall
This is a memoir that is only slightly about gardening. It's more about the transformation of a scared and scarred woman through the friendship of a most amazing person, her gardener. This is a book that makes you fall in love with humanity. We have such potential to be great human beings. We could all do so much more to help each other through life's turmoil. This book soothed my soul.