Praise for The Break by Katherena Vermette October 12 2016
The Break is a stunning and heartbreaking debut novel by Governor General’s Literary Award–winning Métis poet Katherena Vermette about a multigenerational Métis–Anishnaabe family dealing with the fallout of a shocking crime in Winnipeg’s North End. We’re thrilled to see The Break on the shortlist for both the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction (English) and has also been selected as the first book in CBC Unreserved’s Indigenous Reads book club, but beyond that, we’re just glad to see people reading such an important book, and one that’s incredibly relevant to all Canadians in 2016 and beyond.
There have been a lot of wonderful reviews for The Break, and we just wanted to do a quick roundup of some of our favourites in this post. We hope you all get a chance to read the The Break soon — it’s highly recommended, and an incredibly important (and relevant) book that deals subject matter than can no longer be ignored.
But Vermette does not shy away from the violence visited upon Indigenous men and women from within their own community. She casts her unwavering writer’s gaze equally upon the gang violence, family dysfunction and abuse that are the dark legacy of poverty, residential schools and community breakdown.
The cycle of violence comes full circle in this dark family saga but not without hope.
In Vermette’s poetic prose, The Break offers a stark portrayal of the adversity that plagues First Nations women in this country — and the strength that helps them survive.
— Toronto Star (Powerful stories of Indigenous women)
The Break is an astonishing act of empathy, and its conclusion is heartbreaking. A thriller gives us easy answers – a victim and a perpetrator, good guys and bad guys. The Break gives us the actual mess of life.
Though Katherena Vermette is not an emerging writer – she has written seven children’s books and won a Governor General’s award for her poetry collection North End Love Songs – for many, this novel will be their first encounter. And it will be a revelation. Vermette is a fully matured literary talent confronting some of our society’s fundamental problems through understated prose that exudes wisdom and emotion. Every page hides beauty amid suffering; love winning out over violence and hate. Stella, at one point in the novel, thinks about “[a] story that didn’t happen to her but that she keeps and remembers.” The Break is like that; it is a story that will stick with you a long time.
The strength, resilience, and kindness of the characters was like a cup of tea on a cold day and a blanket of comfort when the tragic circumstances of the story would jolt you back to the harshness of these characters’ daily reality. But Vermette does not let you look away from the grisly details, and by providing the perspective of each character (all women, except for the cop), she doesn’t let you vilify anyone either. While many characters directly experience violence and other misogynistic abuse, The Break focuses on women’s need to support and respect each other in order to break the patterns of violence and abuse. In order to do this, Vermette takes you gently by the hand and helps you stare into the fire, into the past, present, and future at the same time.
— Winnipeg Review (‘The Break’ by Katherena Vermette)
When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.
In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.
A powerful intergenerational family saga, The Break showcases Vermette’s abundant writing talent and positions her as an exciting new voice in Canadian literature.