Read: December 2017
2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize finalist
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.
I hadn’t originally planned on getting this book, but after seeing it absolutely everywhere for about a year, I decided to finally buy it and read it. I had been reading a lot more fiction by First Nations authors and when a local book club decided to choose this book as their December pick, I thought I’d join them and dig in!
I really enjoyed reading this debut novel by Katherena Vermette. I had heard of her poetry collection, and the cover for this book was just so eye-catching that she had my interest right away. The one thing I really loved about this book was the fact that it dealt with many generations, from a grandma to her daughters and her daughters’ children. It’s also a story about the indigenous community and an area called “the break.” It’s a very heavy story dealing with rape, but on top of that it’s very much rooted in family and I really liked the family dynamics that took place in the story.
I feel like Vermette wrote some really great characters and we even get voices from those who have passed and it really added something to the story. I liked how the story was written in many different voices so we get many sides of the story and hear what everyone’s (well, mostly everyone) thoughts are. I also liked how one of the officers dealing with what happened was Metis, working with a white officer who thinks it’s an endearment to over-enunciate his nationality at MAY-tee. This officer was someone whose parents come from both sides and it felt like a slap in the face which I could understand.
This story was exhausting in its emotions and it was such a heavy read. I can definitely tell why it was up for so many awards and why people are talking about this book so much. Even though this deals with rape, this book is full of so much love and I really liked the balance that Vermette provides in her writing. I really look forward to what she writes in the future!