For the first time in its 19 year history, the Shadow Giller Jury has decided to include a call-in title when it considers this year’s shortlist: The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden. The decision was unanimous — two members of the Shadow Jury have read it and found it excellent, the other two (one of them is KfC) are looking forward to it.
Boyden has already won the Giller in 2008 for Through Black Spruce, volume two in a projected trilogy. When the longlist was announced (and The Orenda had just been released) I mistakenly said it was the third volume — it is not.
The Shadow Jury will treat The Orenda simply as a sixth title on our short list. You will eventually see reviews here as well as at Reading Matters and the Mookse and the Gripes — Alison will offer her thoughts on one of our blogs.
As usual, the Shadow Jury will make its deliberations transparent. In the event that the call-in title wins our Prize, we will conduct a second vote that is limited to the five titles of the Real Jury shortlist.
None of us has yet reviewed The Orenda. In the meantime, here is the publisher’s description of the novel:
A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.
Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.
As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.
The 2013 Real Giller Jury is already under intense scrutiny as a result of its decision to leave Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, winner of the Booker Prize, off the Giller long list. I have read it — and it certainly would have made my shortlist. The Shadow Giller Jury’s decision to add another call-in can only further lead to questions about the ability of this year’s Real Jury. Your comments and thoughts, as usual, are more than welcome. And if our call-in title does win the Shadow Giller, I will be encouraging my fellow jurors to read Catton’s Booker winner and offer yet another vote on the best “Canadian” book of the year.