Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize 2016, Short-listed
Governor General's Literary Award 2016, Short-listed
Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction 2017, Winner
Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award 2017, Winner
McNally Robinson Book of the Year 2017, Winner
Amazon.ca First Novel Award 2017, Winner
Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Literature 2017, Short-listed
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.
The narrator of this story is dead. He misses feeling the skin of others, but he likes being about memory. It’s who we are siem. Katherena Vermette rendered the women of the North End gorgeous in her poetry: North End Love Songs. In The Break, she renders them sweet, beautiful battlers who love under the most horrific of circumstances. She points no fingers, just plots the story, person by person, memory by memory, until it is clear that we must give up the feeling of hopelessness that haunts the lives of these women. The Break is itself a beautiful love song of desire to live a full and rich life as cherished women — even when we cannot have that. We can hope. Resilient as the star world from which they arise these women reconcile with their lives without giving in to the horrors they have faced. Vermette captures the reader from beginning to end. She creates unforgettable characters with honor, respect and a deft hand. In so doing she holds the reader’s tender love in her capable hands and weaves us right into the story. The Break is unforgettable.
The lives of the girls and women in The Break are not easy, but their voices — complex, urgent, and unsparing — lay bare what it means to survive, not only once, but multiple times, against the forces of private and national histories. Katherena Vermette is a tremendously gifted writer, a dazzling talent.
Fiction is capable of helping us to comprehend difference and otherness, and The Break offers clear insight ino people struggling to secure a place in the world.
Katherena Vermette’s poignant novel, set in Winnipeg’s North End, opens with a violent crime that becomes the backdrop for a story of great depth and compassion. This masterfully written narrative shifts among the intergenerational voices of the women of one extended Indigenous family. The Break is a powerful, persuasive novel about the strength and love that bind these women to each other and to the men in their lives. The traditions and wisdom of a community are honoured, as is the exquisite individual humanity of each character. Although this is a novel of social importance, it transcends politics, taking the reader on a journey to the heart of what it means for one person to care about another, survive trauma, and endure.
The Break manages to be political even when it isn’t. It’s a book that explores social issues without ever preaching, or even seeming to be about them at all. It examines the only element of those issues that matter: their human impact. It’s astonishing in its empathy... She doesn’t pull her punches or dress up her truths. The Break leaves it all bare, and it demands to be read.
Vermette is skilled at writing with a language that is conversational and comfortable and with a poetic ease that makes the hard things easier to swallow. The result is a book that is at times emotionally demanding, funny, suspenseful, and always engaging.
Vermette offers us a dazzling portrayal of the patchwork quilt of
pain and trauma that women inherit, of the "big and small half-stories
that make up a life." These are the stories our mothers, sisters and
friends have told us - the stories we absorb into our bloodstream
until they might as well be our own.
..a stunning debut - a novel whose 10 voices, Greek chorus-like, span
the full range of human possibility, from its lowest depths to its
most brilliant triumphs, as they attempt to make sense of this tragic
crime and of their own lives. "The Break" is an astonishing act of
empathy, and its conclusion is heartbreaking. A thriller gives us easy
answers - a victim and a perpetrator, good guys and bad guys. "The
Break" gives us the actual mess of life.
With adeptness and sensitivity, Vermette puts a human face to issues that are too-often misunderstood, and in so doing, she has written a book that is both one of the most important of the year and one of the best.
Though Katherena Vermette is not an emerging writer – she has written seven children’s books and won a Governor General’s award for her poetry collection North End Love Songs – for many, this novel will be their first encounter. And it will be a revelation. Vermette is a fully matured literary talent confronting some of our society’s fundamental problems through understated prose that exudes wisdom and emotion. Every page hides beauty amid suffering; love winning out over violence and hate. Stella, at one point in the novel, thinks about “[a] story that didn’t happen to her but that she keeps and remembers.” The Break is like that; it is a story that will stick with you a long time.
In Vermette’s poetic prose, The Break offers a stark portrayal of the adversity that plagues First Nations women in this country — and the strength that helps them survive.
A visionary debut novel.
Stunning . . . [Vermette] chooses her words with a poet’s precision.
One of the great Indigenous novels.
Katherena Vermette’s debut novel, The Break, takes a tough, close-up look at an extended family in Winnipeg, tackling along the way a side of female life that’s often hard to acknowledge: the violence of girls and women sometimes display towards other girls and women, and the power struggles among them. In The Break, the characters may be Métis, but the motivations and emotions are surely universal. This is an accomplished writer who will go far.
A debut novel brimming with grace and wisdom, that puts the spotlight on the systemic violence being committed in our country, [The Break] is both a wake-up call and a call-to-arms. Vital.
It’s a timely novel that will keep you turning the pages and make you think well after you’ve turned the final one.