Khaled Hosseini's novels have sold more than 38 million copies worldwide. Now, six years after A Thousand Splendid Suns debuted at #1 (spending fourteen consecutive weeks at #1 and nearly a full year on the hardcover list) Hosseini returns with a book that is broader in scope and setting than anything he's ever written before: And The Mountains Echoed.
On May 27, Indigo has an exclusive interview with this beloved novelist, and we want to open this opportunity to you, our customers. Did you read and love The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns? What would you ask this bestselling author?
Post your questions in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #EchoedQandA. We'll choose the best to ask Khaled Hosseini, and record his response as a personalized video for each question.
The greatest line I’ve ever heard about fiction writing is that it has a great advantage over non-fiction, because fiction can tell the truth.
Sounds odd. But think. You want to know about England in the early 1800s what do you read? Dickens. California during the dust bowl in the 1930s? Steinbeck of course.
Now I’m not saying I’m a Dickens or a Steinbeck, but what I try to do in my novels is to show Toronto as it really is. Now. Today. Not an all-cutesy CBC-type happy multicultural soap opera where everyone is sweet all the time. And not some dark, horrid place where heinous crimes happen every hour.
Just the facts. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is a city in radical transformation. Shedding its adolescent skin, and not really sure what true maturity will bring. Hence the stasis. The indecision. And that key component that makes all great literature: the conflict.
My first novel, Old City Hall, takes the reader to the heart of Toronto’s central criminal courthouse. The place where the real action happens. In my second book, The Guilty Plea, a wealthy third-generation family is crumbling while a brilliant, but unsure woman from small-town Ontario is trying to make her way in the Big Smoke. How much more Toronto can you get?
Last year, Stray Bullets came out. The title evokes to Torontonians the horror of recent years when innocent by-standers have been felled by the increasing gun violence on our city streets.
My new book, Stranglehold, takes place during a hotly contested election for the next mayor of Toronto. It’s a high-stakes campaign. The establishment candidate is being challenged by a rough and tumble upstart, a part-time high school rugby coach whose campaign is all about getting ‘tough on crime.’
In each book I try to tell three stories. Draw a circle in your mind. Then draw a ring around it, and a third ring. The inner circle is the tale of the crime itself. (Just one murder per book. Always at the start, then no more blood and guts. Just brain power.) Ring number two reveals the characters my readers have now come to know, their personal lives and how they intersect with the criminal trial (the inner ring) they all face.
The outside ring is the city. To me Toronto is a character in and of itself. A living, breathing, ever changing player on the wider stage.
I’m thrilled to say that this focus on the city, really drilling down to see what makes it tick and not pretending the setting is in “Nowheresville U.S.A.,” has paid off. The Det. Greene’s Toronto maps on my website is extremely popular. And now America’s National Public Radio (NPR) is coming up to do a story about me and the city I write about. It will air in early June. Hopefully by then you’ll have read Stranglehold. It’s available everywhere in Canada on May 7.
Bet you can’t read just one chapter. Enjoy.
Thanks to our friends at Simon and Schuster Canada for facilitating this blog post, and to Robert Rotenberg for composing it.
Neil Gaiman once said, “Good fiction unites us, as humans, because it gives us empathy. Because it makes us look at the world through other people’s eyes. And it’s a wonderful way of realizing that other people exist.” After reading Anthony Marra’s stunning first novel, I am aware of just how in the dark I’ve been. Not only do other people exist, of course, but other people are miraculous. Other people, regardless of whether you have met them, or ever will, are sparks of wonder.
This novel’s honesty and power hit me right in the solar plexus. I’m talking straight to the gut, take-your-breath-away, raw, crippling honesty. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena tells the story of six incredible characters during the horrific turmoil in Chechnya from 1994-2004. The book opens with a haunting scene featuring two of these characters, Akhmed and his best friend’s daughter, Havaa. The previous evening, Akhmed had watched from his window as his best friend Dokka was tied up and thrown into the back of a Russian military vehicle. He knew this was coming, and knew that Dokka was smart enough to hide his only child, and so Akhmed and Havaa begin a long journey, through an eerie and secretive forest in order to stay off the main roads. They are headed to a half-decrepit hospital, where a woman named Dr. Sonja Rabina still tends to the burned and the broken.
Akhmed knows that his time is limited, for those who took Dokka will eventually come for him, but before they do, he must secure the safety of his dear friend’s daughter. What he doesn’t know is that Sonja has been living in her own private hell for these past ten years.
I came to this book with no knowledge of the terrifying details of Chechnya’s unrest, but I learned quickly. You will be unable to turn away from the astonishing prose that fills these pages. The most powerful book I have read in years, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is an intricately woven story that takes you into the depths of hell, and yet provides you with the most remarkable beacon of hope. This is a story of betrayal, love, family, and most of all, it is written proof that the spirit can be unbreakable.
This book is not easy to read, but like Neil Gaiman said, it will make you understand the marvelous existence of others; the power and strength of them, the sorrows, the unwavering hope and the beauty in them. This book is colossal.
Helene Wecker's debut novel, The Golem and The Jinni, is a compulsively readable debut novel about two supernatural creatures in turn of the century immigrant New York.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay; unmoored and adrift as her ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
The Indigo Blog is pleased to present this interview with the author.
Indigo Fiction Blog (IFB): What were the inspirations or influences for The Golem and The Jinni, literary or otherwise?
Helene Wecker (HW): There's too many to name! On one level, I had the old golem stories and the stories of jinn/genies, the Thousand and One Nights and so on. For the Golem, Frankenstein's in there too, and a little Pygmalion maybe, and modern scifi that looks at what happens when we create human-like life: Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the replicants from Blade Runner. For the Jinni, I feel like he was influenced by a number of heroes from different fantasy novels. Bertran de Talair in Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne comes to mind.
IFB: Which character was harder to write?
HW: The Golem was more difficult to write, because she's so influenced by the desires and fears of others. That meant I had to be constantly taking into account what was happening around her, and what she might be picking up on.
IFB: Apart from any historical research you did, what elements of the story did you draw from Jewish and Arabic folklore? I'm thinking particularly of Thousand and One Arabian Nights.
HW: I definitely drew from the Thousand and One Nights, as well as the Jewish folktales of Rabbi Loew and the Golem of Prague. Once I had the basic outlines of my characters, though, I stepped away from the old stories. I found I was too worried about getting it "right," and had to let myself develop my own versions of these beings.
IFB: The connections between the characters seem like they could only have happened in the tightly-knit immigrant communities of New York. How important was the setting of the story to the plot?
HW: Very important! The Jewish Lower East Side and Little Syria really were like little cities in their own right -- especially the Lower East Side, which in 1899 had already been thriving for decades. The immigrant communities were so self-contained that you could spend all day speaking your own language to everyone you met, but if you walked just a few blocks in any direction you would be at a total loss. (I'm guessing it's still like for many New Yorkers.) This meant that I could have two entire cultures living barely a mile apart, with no real knowledge of each other. As the book progresses, and the plot threads of the two communities start to overlap, it starts to feel like worlds colliding, even though technically they're all neighbors.
IFB: Were you to go walking with Chava and Ahmed on an evening in contemporary New York, where would you take them first?
HW: Such a great question... First I'd take them to an observation deck, maybe Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building, so they could get a good look at how the city's grown and changed. Then maybe Central Park, just so they could see that some New York institutions are still very much the same. I also get the feeling the Golem would really enjoy the High Line. And the Jinni would probably want to go clubbing. Unfortunately most of my own favorite spots in NYC are food-related, and neither of them eat!
IFB: The metalwork that Ahmed creates in the novel is stunning. Did you base his masterpiece on an existing artist's work?
HW: No, I didn't – it just sort of came to me. I knew he'd be more interesting in making works of art than in everyday objects like pots and pans, and I was trying to imagine the sorts of pieces he'd create. At the same time, I was researching what it was like to live in the old tenement buildings, and I kept coming across references to the pressed tin ceilings. It seemed like a natural fit.
IFB: Chava was designed as a perfect wife for one particular kind of man – obedient, intelligent, and mostly asexual – but these traits don't translate into perfect wifedom once she marries Michael. What do you think would have happened if her creator had lived? Would she be the "perfect wife" for him, or are there fatal flaws in his own imaginings?
HW: Oh, she absolutely would have been his perfect wife, for at least a week or two. I think he would've grown bored with her obedience pretty quickly. Eventually he would've wanted her to be more lively and unpredictable, which would've been difficult for her, if not impossible, since she was essentially a slave to his will. There's lots of sci-fi tales about computers or robots that are given conflicting commands and eventually go bonkers, or turn on their creators. I can definitely see that happening.
IFB: On a similar note, Chava chafes against the gender restrictions of her time and place, despite her design – she wants to mourn for Rabbi Meyer; she wants to walk alone. The supernatural elements, among other things, offer a way to comment on the times without seeming anachronistic. If Chava were dropped into our society, what would she have to learn?
HW: I think she'd have a lot of difficulty with the conflicting requirements that our society tends to place on women. Be sexy, but not too sexy; be ambitious and successful, but don't threaten the men around you. She would have a very hard time trying to walk that line. Ironically, she's pretty much the only woman out there who could really "have it all," because she doesn't need to sleep!
IFB: Alternatively, since Chava and Ahmad are effectively immortal, how do you think they would react to today's society? What would they find puzzling or ridiculous?
HW: I think they'd be shocked at the physical isolation of the computer age. Especially the Jinni – the prospect of staring at a screen in a cubicle all day would really be anathema to him. He'd end up a Burning Man type, or an extreme sports athlete, or something else that the Golem would find completely outrageous.
IFB: Aside from Proust, who are your favourite prose authors?
HW: So many! Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Hilary Mantel, A.S. Byatt, Joan Didion, Susanna Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Samuel Delany ... the list goes on and on.
Thanks to HarperCollins for facilitating this interview, to the Indigo Blog team for their thoughtful questions, and to Helene Wecker for her insightful answers. We wish her the best of luck with her debut.
Getting books like The Golem and the Jinni before publication is the best part of working at Indigo. We read advance copies to guess a book’s prospects, give feedback to the publisher, and chat with other early readers on Goodreads. But, on occasion, books so seize our imaginations and make such industry noise that we have to tell customers about them early. Books of this calibre turn us into excited kids with a secret. And we’re not very good secret keepers.
I won’t dwell on the plot of The Golem and the Jinni because the tension of its many threads holds it together until a pitch-perfect ending. Spoilers abound. Instead, I'll talk about two magical immigrants, who make Helene Wecker's debut book into the old-fashioned fairy tale we loved as boys and girls. Chava is a golem fashioned from clay, a drudge tied to her master. She feels the emotions of others, so to serve them better. But this creature from Jewish folklore was never meant for a rabbi who wished her choose and chase her own wants. In obedience to him and straining against her nature, Chava must learn to serve herself. Also chafing against unnatural bonds is Ahmad, a jinni. He is an insatiable and narcissistic spirit born of fire, but shackled to a human body by ancient magic. He is a man always on the edge of his Lebanese neighbourhood, the law, and mortality. A meeting between these opposite characters – and the communities they bring with them – is inevitable, but its outcome unpredictable.
The Golem and the Jinni is a masterwork of time and place. It could only happen when and where it does. The kin ties and animosities of immigrant New York pull the folklore of the old world into the new world where old stories are retold and new ones begin. These stories – of family, of secrets, of magic, and of far-off lands and times – fill The Golem and the Jinni. And such stories remain the best ones – the ones we never tire of and the ones we return to again and again.
>> Read Chapter 1 of The Golem and the Jinni.
>> Pre-order The Golem and the Jinni, on sale April 23rd from HarperCollins.
Swinging parties. A mysterious millionaire. True love. Betrayal. Murder. It’s all there in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Often known as The Great American Novel, The Great Gatsby is the tale of the mysterious and wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan, as told by Nick Carraway, a young man determined to learn the truth of who the Great Gatsby is.
Today marks Gatsby’s 88th anniversary of publication, and to celebrate we’ve partnered with Warner Brothers Pictures Canada for an exciting giveaway! How’d you like to take your sweetie to an advanced screening of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby on May 8th, 2013? This movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan in the biggest and boldest screen adaptation yet.
Twitter Contest Details
Get ready Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax! Our friends at Warner Brothers Pictures Canada have provided five double-passes for an advanced screening in each of these cities on the evening of Wednesday, May 8th. Our contest only includes this double-pass; winners will have to get to the theatre on their own. All of our other standard Twitter rules apply.
Once @chaptersindigo tweets the contest question on Twitter (at approximately 3:15 pm EDT on Wednesday, April 10), you reply with the name of the city that you'd like to win the double-pass for and include #IndigoAndTheGreatGatsby in your reply. Again, the cities are: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax. All eligible tweets received before 4 pm EDT will be entered into a random draw for the pass to the city indicated in their contest entry tweet.
Good luck, Old Sport!
The Garden of Burning Sand is the new novel from Corban Addison that maintains his interest in shining light on human rights issues around the world.
On a dark night in Lusaka, Zambia, an adolescent girl is brutally assaulted. In shock, she cannot speak. Her identity is a mystery. Where did she come from? Was the attack a random street crime or a premeditated act?
The girl's case is taken up by Zoe Fleming, a human rights lawyer working in Africa. A betrayal in her own past gives the girl's plight a special resonance for Zoe, and she is determined to find the perpetrator and seek justice.
Also investigating on behalf of the Zambian police is Joseph Kabuta. At first reluctant to work together, they team up. Yet their progress is thwarted at every turn and it soon becomes clear that their opponents are every bit as powerful and determined as they are corrupt.
We're pleased to share this piece from Corban Addison himself – on what inspired this novel, and what inspires him to continue to write.
The Garden of Burning Sand – Personal Notes
Violence against women and girls is a problem so vast and multi-faceted that most people don't know where to begin talking about it, let alone doing something about it. The way to overcome that paralysis is to personalize the issue. When I imagine my own daughter as the victim of rape, of spousal abuse, of female genital mutilation, or femicide, I don't have to work hard to care about the issue. When I read a story about an African child much like my own daughter, suddenly my concern expands and encompasses the world. That, in a nutshell, is the vision behind The Garden of Burning Sand.
The idea for Garden came from a talk my wife and I heard about an NGO working with special needs children in Zambia. We were mortified to learn that 80% of Zambian children with special needs die before the age of five. We were also shocked to find out that many of the girls that do survive are raped by men in their community—often a neighbor, a relative, or a friend of the family—and that the rapists are rarely punished for their crimes. Both of us saw a story there, and so I decided to pursue it. I soon realized, however, that the story had to be bigger than Zambia; it had to be bigger than Africa. It had to be a global story because gender violence is everywhere. It's all around us.
It's extraordinary: One in three of the world's women are physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That's over one billion women. I had no idea of that before I started researching Garden. The more I explored the problem, the more committed I became to combatting it. As a husband, as a father, as a man, I feel especially compelled to lend my voice to the cause, for we men are at the root of it. In almost every case, we are the abusers; we are the rapists. If the tide of gender violence is going to stop, we are the ones who must stop it.
When I was in Zambia, I had the privilege of spending time with some friends who adopted three children with Down syndrome. Two of their children are adolescent girls. Watching them play with their dolls, tickle the ivories on their piano, and delight in a special dinner at a restaurant, I was sickened by the thought that there were men in Lusaka, perhaps men who walked by their house on a daily basis, who would rape them if given a chance. In a private moment, I asked their father how his girls would interpret such a violation. He shook his head sadly: "They wouldn't understand it," he said. "They would have no idea how to make sense of the pain."
The truth is that no victim of gender violence—even those without special needs—ever really makes sense of the pain. The suffering is senseless, irrational. The only way to move beyond it is to move through it. And in most cases, the only way to move through it is to share the secret, to find support from a caring community, and to learn that human dignity is not destroyed by violence; in fact, it can be empowered by it. It is my hope that The Garden of Burning Sand will serve as a catalyst for readers to talk about the gender violence that exists in their communities—perhaps even in their lives—and to connect that with the plight of women and girls half a world away. In our global age, we are all in this together. If we are going to make progress on this issue, we must act with common purpose.
Thanks to Harper Collins Canada and to Corban Addison, for sharing this blog.
I wonder if we're completely ruined, you and I.
- Scott Fitzgerald in a letter to Zelda, from the prologue of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald is a mysterious figure, one we have seen multiple versions of. From F. Scott Fitzgerald's own work based on their love and marriage, The Beautiful and the Damned, to Woody Allen's 2011 blockbuster, Midnight in Paris, Zelda has been given many faces. Mostly, we see her as the outspoken, neurotic and crazy wife of a timeless writer. However, Therese Anne Fowler gives us something remarkably different: a vibrant and bold woman who spent her life fighting against societal expectations.
To describe the plot of this novel would not give you an accurate description of the novel's literary prowess. The power of Z lives in its characters and the love, hate and desires that bind them. There is, of course, the crushingly honest and spunky Zelda, who is raised by a generation of modest, sexless women, but she herself was as sensual and curious as can be. During her youth, Zelda is made of bravery and promise; battling for the life she so desires. Fowler also breathes life into a heart-wrenching version of Scott Fitzgerald: the tortured dreamer who, though tremendously talented, harboured such insecurity that alcohol became his only comfort.
Zelda and Scott start off young, ambitious and extremely naïve. Their adoration and fascination with each other is the perfect illustration of young love. But as they age, Scott's blindingly obvious insecurities begin to take over their relationship. Zelda always thought their future and legacy would be as two artists, conquering the world together, and she rides a rollercoaster ride of emotions when she realizes that all Scott wants is a supportive, compliant and adoring wife. These two couldn't live with each other, but could not survive apart.
With stunning, poetic prose, Fowler delivers one of the most tragic love stories I have ever read. I cheered for them, shed tears for them and watched life intrude on their dreams, as it often does. My heart swelled and bled for Scott and Zelda, who really were each other’s Kryptonite. Just like Scott wrote about in his book, their love was beautiful ... and damned.
The latest Indigo Spotlight pick, Rita Leganski's The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, is a luminous debut novel, filled with beauty, grace, and hope. You will carry this story with you long after you reach the end.
By the time Bonaventure is five, he can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops.
One day, Bonaventure's world is shaken by anguished voices he's never heard before. When Bonaventure removes a note from his mother from its hiding place, he opens two doors to the past and finds the key to a web of secrets that holds his family together, and threatens to tear it apart.
Set against the background of 1950s New Orleans, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is a magical debut about the lost art of listening and a wondrous little boy who brings healing to the souls of all who love him in this story of forgiveness and redemption.
The Indigo Fiction blog is pleased to share this blog from the author of this exceptional novel.
Rita Leganski, on The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow :
For a number of years I fancied myself a writer. I had a flair for it, though not the skills. But that didn't stop me. I wrote books that were little more than novellas and submitted them to agents, convinced every time that this would be THE ONE. Rejection slips piled up. Eventually I had to admit that if I was ever going to learn the craft, I'd have to go back to school. With no clear idea of the toll this would take, I enrolled in university classes.
I was usually the oldest person in the room. I don't like being the oldest anything, but I was on a mission. A full-time job meant I had to attend classes at night, even in winter (which would doubtless be more admirable if they'd been Canadian winters, but Chicago's can be pretty tough). I wanted to quit so many times. Finally, after sticking it out for six years, I had a BA in English Studies and a Masters in Writing. I quit my office job, took a teaching position at DePaul University, and tried to get up close and personal with fiction writing. Little did I know that the battle had just begun.
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow actually started out as a short-story assignment in graduate school. The first question I asked myself when I decided to turn it into a novel was the same question every writer must ask: What is this story about? Here's what I came up with:
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow weaves a tale of heartbreak, guilt, and atonement gone wrong. But then there comes a healing, brought about by a silent and gifted little boy who shares his name with a mystic-turned-saint.
From the moment I put my characters to the page, they were as real to me as if I'd known them forever. At some point they took on lives of their own and surprised me with the way they grappled with self-imposed guilt, and struggled with loneliness and fear and regret, all the while yearning for the light of understanding.
I like to think there are a number of truths woven into The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow. Some have to do with the darker side of the human experience, like grief, judgment, guilt, jealousy, and self-righteousness. But others speak of the very best in humanity; namely, our willingness to forgive and our capacity to love.
Love is measured in joy and in sorrow. In this story, I chose to let sorrow take away Bonaventure Arrow's voice but leave the gift of extraordinary hearing in its place. Through this gift, Bonaventure bears the touch of the Divine. His hearing is not only extraordinary but magical as it draws from the Universe of Every Single Sound in order to take the pain from scars and break the bonds of blame.
Bonaventure hears that which lay behind sounds, and he collects mementos of them: ...the tap water and scissor sounds of wished-for beauty; the gumball-rattle of giant kindness...the joyful, last-sip gurgle from Bixie's Luncheonette; the moist-earth sounds of healing...and the courageous buzzing of a bluebottle fly...
Even though he's just a little boy, Bonaventure Arrow senses that the worthiest sounds are rooted in love, but it is his kindred spirit, one Trinidad Prefontaine, who comes to know love's source. On page 293, speaking in her comforting bayou patios, she says, "...I always did suspect there be mysteries. Lord knows, nobody understand where love comes from if not from inside a mystery."
And that is, perhaps, the greatest truth of all.
Thanks to Harper Collins Canada and to Rita Leganski for sharing this blog.
The World Needs More Canada – and a new novel from Joseph Boyden is truly cause for celebration. Canlit fans, mark your calendars – Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda releases on September 10, 2013. The Indigo Fiction Blog is thrilled to share this exclusive reveal of the novel’s cover, and a teaser excerpt from the novel itself.
I awake. A few minutes, maybe, of troubled sleep. My teeth chatter so violently I can taste that I’ve bitten my swollen tongue. Spitting red into the snow, I try to rise but my body has seized. The older Huron, their leader, the one who kept us walking all night around the big lake rather than across it because of some ridiculous dream, stands above me with a thorn club. These men and the weight they give their dreams. It will be the end of them.
Although I still know only a little of their language, I understand the words the man whispers and I force myself to roll when the club swings toward me. The thorns bite into my back and the bile of curses that pour from my mouth make the group of Hurons watching intently cover their mouths with laughter. I am sorry, Lord, to use your name in vain.
They'd all be screaming with glee, pointing and holding their bellies, if we weren't being hunted right now. With a low sun rising and the air so cold, the noise travels. They are clearly fed up with the young Iroquois girl who wouldn't stop whimpering all night. Her face is swollen from slaps and when I look to her lying in the snow I fear that they killed her while I slept.
Not long ago, just before light, we'd all paused to rest, the leader and his handful of hunters stopping as if they'd planned it out in advance, the pack of them collapsing into each other for the heat. They whispered among themselves, and a couple of the hunters' eyes glanced over to me. Although I couldn't decipher their rushed speech, I knew they talked of leaving me here, probably with the girl who at that moment sat with her back to a birch, staring as if in a dream. Or maybe they talked of killing the girl and me. The two of us had slowed the rest down all night, and despite my trying to walk quietly, I stumbled in the black through the thick brush and tripped over fallen trees buried in the snow. At one point I'd removed my snowshoes they were so clumsy but I sank up to my hips in the next steps and one of the hunters had to pull me out, biting me hard on the face when he'd finally accomplished the deed.
Now the snow covering the lake glows the colour of a robin's egg as sun tries to break the cloud. If I live through this day I will always remember to pay attention to the tickle of dryness at the back of my throat at this moment, the whine like a bad headache coming. I’ve just begun to walk to the girl to offer her comfort if she's still alive when a dog's howl breaks the silence, the excitement in its picking up our scent making me want to throw up. Other dogs answer it. I forget how my toes have begun to blacken, that I’ve lost so much weight I can't support my gaunt frame for long, that my chest has filled with a sickness that's turned my skin yellow.
I know dogs, though. As in my old world, these are one of the few things in this new one that bring me comfort. And this pack's still a long way away, their voices traveling easy in the frozen air. When I bend to help the girl up, I see the others have already left, have disappeared into the shadow of the trees and thick brush.
My panic at being left alone to those chasing me, the ones who will make sure I die a slow death so painful I now weigh taking my own life, is so powerful I know exactly what I must do. And I ask Your divine mercy for this. I will strip naked and I will walk out onto the lake. I calculate how long it will all take. The first ten minutes as the pack races closer and closer to me will certainly be the most painful. My skin will at first feel like it is on fire, like I am being boiled in a pot. There's only one thing more painful than the first minutes of freezing, and it's the thawing out, every tendril of the body screaming for the pain to stop. But I won't have to worry about that. I will lie on the frozen lake and allow the boiling of the cold to consume me. After that first handful of minutes the violent shaking won't even be noticed, but the sharp stabs of pain in the forehead will come, and they will travel deeper until it feels my brain is being prodded with fish spines. And when the dogs are within a few minutes of reaching me, I will suddenly begin to feel a warmth creeping. My body will continue its hard seizures, but my toes and fingers and my testicles will stop burning. I will begin to feel a sense of, if not comfort, then relief, and my breathing will be very difficult and this will cause panic but the panic will slowly harden to resolve and when the dogs are on the lake and racing toward me, jaws foaming and teeth bared, I will know that even this won't hurt anymore as I slip into a sleep that one cannot awaken from. As the dogs circle me I will try to smile at them, bare my teeth, too, and know that although my eyes are frozen shut that the dogs will begin to eat me, but I’ll not feel myself being consumed, will be like you, Christ, as I give my body so that others might live.
Excerpted from The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Boyden.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Canada. All rights reserved.