Katherena Vermette’s The Break is a riveting page-turner that examines sexual violence, gang culture, abuse and racism within a neighbourhood in Winnipeg, Canada. Using a series of weaving perspectives, the author tells the story of a sexual crime involving a young teenage girl, which ultimately impacts an entire family. The distinct (yet connected) perspectives slowly reveal details of the disturbing crime.
Vermette’s ability to maintain coherence throughout the book, despite the vast amount of perspectives, is a shining light. Though this could have become messy, the author uses these perspectives to show the various ways one incident has an intergenerational effect. The perspective I was drawn to the most was Stella. Stella is a young mother who witnessed the crime in the window of her home. Because she feared the safety of her children, she didn’t attempt to stop the crime from happening, which causes her an abundance of guilt. On a personal level, Stella is struggling with her identity. Though she grew up surrounded by her Métis culture, she has since gone to university, travelled and married a man outside of her culture (she notes that he doesn’t understand her history). In a way, separating herself from her upbringing has resulted in feelings of isolation. A few perspectives in the book suggest that Stella is suffering from depression. Stella’s character had multiple layers and featured a great deal of depth. I wanted to understand her and step inside her mind.
It’s important to note that the subject matter of sexual violence may be a trigger for some readers. Sexual violence isn’t only featured in the crime that drives the book, The Break also showcases how sexual violence is prominent on an intergenerational level, which is a reflection of the society the author paints in her story. Some of the details are extremely graphic and there were a number of times I put it down just to recollect what I just read.
Despite the heartbreaking and emotional events throughout the book, The Break ends with a sense of hope.
The Break is a mysterious, yet enthralling novel, which brings an important topic to the forefront.
Release date: March 1st 2018 by Allen & Unwin (first published September 17th 2016)
(I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)