Winner of the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award, The Break is a stunning and heartbreaking debut novel about a multigenerational Métis–Anishnaabe family dealing with the fallout of a shocking crime in Winnipeg’s North End.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If you’ve ever questioned how much pain a person can endure and still come out strong, read The Break. Set in a Métis community in the North End of Winnipeg, the novel centres around one family and one horrific incident, and is told from a variety of perspectives, mostly women. Katherena Vermette won a Governor General’s Award for poetry, and her crackling prose renders her characters both nuanced and realistic. Vermette's debut novel is a gripping affair—even the book’s most harrowing moments (involving cops and gangs) feel grounded and true to life.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A highly engaging story that takes the reader into the hearts and minds of a family of strong indigenous woman facing a horrific attack on one of their own.
It was an ok book, the constant perspective changing seems like a good idea In your head, and was one of my reasons for picking up the book. However it became very distracting and confusing once you start to switch between 15 different characters.
It is also good to take into consideration that this is a fictional book, the likelihood of almost all the cops being racist dirtbags is very small, and made me feel like it misrepresents the police force in the North End.
This is a very well written book that helped me appreciate the difficult circumstances of aboriginal women as well as feel the strength of the family bond and love that they hold. I recommend this book to all Canadians, particularly as we address the missing and abused indigenous women in our country. The description of the two police in this novel and their racist and/or incompetence is well done. This novel is an eye opener and an educational tool. Thank you.