Author: Katherena Vermette
Read: Feb. 2018
I flew through The Break, which was the second book in my February Reading Challenge.
The Break is written by Métis author Katherena Vermette and tells the story of a Métis family and the struggles and challenges they’ve experienced, both together and apart. The novel opens with young mother Stella witnessing a crime on the break of land outside her house. She is paralyzed with fear and calls the police, but both the victim and the perpetrators have disappeared and law enforcement is not convinced of her story.
I don’t want to run the book by getting to into the plot, but it’s told from a lot of different viewpoints. There are 4 living generations in Stella’s family and they all have a voice in this story. As the police investigate the incident and the family is shook by violence, Vermette examines all the relationships and history that exist in this family. There are some narrators outside of the immediate family, such as the young Métis officer who investigates the incident, but this is really a story about family, the bonds that tie us together and the conflict that can threaten to tear us apart.
First off, the writing in The Break is fantastic. As soon as I started reading it I knew I was going to like it because it is just so beautifully written and the characters emotions are so tangibly felt. This was an insightful look inside the lives of a Métis family and it was very obvious the love this family had for one another, even through all the challenges they’ve had to overcome, the mistakes they’ve made, and the violence they’ve witnessed.
The tone of this story is very sad. Vermette made it easy to empathize with her characters and their pain felt very real. The story is heartbreaking and it was upsetting for me how frequently the women either experienced or witnessed sexual and domestic violence. But the women are what made this story so beautiful. It’s a very fractured family unit in that very few of the men in the family have stuck around or remained present in their families lives, but in the absence of reliable men, the women (sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers) have constructed their own family unit that is incredibly close.
The synopsis reads like this is a mystery novel, which it is in some ways, but it’s mostly a slow-burn family drama, which is one of my favourite types of stories. So I really liked this one and I am in love with Katherena Vermette’s writing. A fantastic read!