8 June 2017

The Break - Katherena Vermette

One more book review before I head overseas!  I finished this book last night, though it took me many months to get through.  I cared so much about the characters, and there was so much tragedy in the pages of this book, and I found myself reluctant at times to pick it up as I didn't want anything else bad to happen to the characters.

This book is set in the Indigenous community of Winnipeg, and the city is almost another character in the book with it's quirks and geography underlying everything that happens.  It is also a story of families and how the lives of the families intersect with one another.  There is a family tree in the front of the book, and I found myself referring to it frequently, even in the closing chapters of the book.

One of the characters, a semi-outsider who is Métis but also a police officer, sums up the book in one sentence towards the end.  "All these women holding each other up."  This is very much a book about the bonds between women - family bonds and bonds of friendship and bonds of community.  When a young girl is raped in the opening pages of the book, the women rally around her, and "hold each other up."  Men come and go in their lives (though even when they go, they tend to remain connected), but it is the women that are the living core of the family and the community.

This was a heartbreaking book to read, in its realistic depiction of the poverty and violence and addictions that are found in too many Canadian Indigenous communities.  There are gangs, there is violence against women, there are missing and murdered Indigenous women.  And yet the book ends on a hopeful note - at least for most of the characters.

This is a book that will stay with me.  This is a book that has stayed with me, even when I haven't been actively reading it.  I care so much for these characters, and my heart breaks for them, and I celebrate them.

This is book 15/13 for the Canadian Book Challenge hosted by The Book Mine Set.


  1. Great summary of this wonderful, moving and powerful book. I loved how the women were "holding each other up" as well; so important to this novel and such a strong message amidst the difficulties they faced.

  2. I'm glad to hear that others appreciated this book too. I don't know when (or even if) I will be able to bring myself to read it again, but I am going to hang on to it rather than giving it away or culling it in my upcoming move.