Stella, a young Metis mother, lives with her family by the Break, an isolated strip of land on the edge of their small Canadian town. Glancing out of her window one winter's evening Stella spots someone in trouble; horrified, she calls the police. But when they arrive, no one is there, scuff marks in the compacted snow the only sign anything may have happened.
What follows is a heartbreaking and powerful tale of a community in crisis as the people connected to the victim, a young girl on the edge of a precipice, begin to lay bare their stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou is a social worker grappling with the end of a relationship. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre with no one to turn to. Officer Scott is a Metis policeman caught between two worlds.
A powerful family saga, Katherena Vermette's urgent, acclaimed and multi-award-winning novel shines a light on the fear every woman carries within her?fear of male power and violence?and on the love and empathy shared by all women.
'I loved this - very tough and real.' Margaret Atwood
'Katherena Vermette is a tremendously gifted writer, a dazzling talent... The lives of the girls and women in The Break are not easy, but their voices are complex, urgent and unsparing. Vermette lays bare what it means to survive, not only once, but multiple times, against the forces of private and national histories.' Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing
'Vermette is a staggering talent. Reading The Break is like a revelation; stunning, heartbreaking and glorious. From her exquisitely rendered characters to her fully realized world and the ratcheting tension, I couldn't put it down. Absolutely riveting.' Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach
Vermette's piercing debut novel (following the poetry collection North End Love Songs) begins on a cold, snowy night, when Stella, a young M tis woman, looks out her window and witnesses an attack on a girl out on the Break a tract of isolated land in Winnipeg's North End. Frightened, she calls 911, but the girl and her attackers scatter into the night. The next day, the full weight of the situation is revealed: Emily, the 13-year-old daughter of Stella's cousin Pauline, has been viciously assaulted and raped with a beer bottle. This is not a typical crime story. It is instead a harrowing mosaic, the fragments of which reveal the stories of Emily and her extended family, a young M tis police officer working on the case, as well those of the girls who attacked Emily. The story paints a broad picture of a family separated and brought together again, in different capacities, by varying forms of grief and of another family, that of the perpetrator, shattered in ways seemingly impossible to mend, by drugs, crime and violence. Vermette portrays a wide array of strong, complicated, absolutely believable women, and through them and their hardships offers readers sharp views of race and class issues. This is slice-of-life storytelling at its finest.