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The Break

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  14,592 ratings  ·  1,806 reviews
2016 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize finalist

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, wit
Paperback, 350 pages
Published September 17th 2016 by House of Anansi Press
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Pat My opinion is that it is Lorraine (Rain) -- Stella's mother who is deceased. If you read on page 4, she says, "My Stella .....". So, I just assumed go…moreMy opinion is that it is Lorraine (Rain) -- Stella's mother who is deceased. If you read on page 4, she says, "My Stella .....". So, I just assumed going forward the 1st passage of each part is Rain speaking.
Abigale Miller The sections at the beginning of each part (they're in a different font in my copy, and without a section title, like the others have) are all narrate…moreThe sections at the beginning of each part (they're in a different font in my copy, and without a section title, like the others have) are all narrated by Lorraine (Rain), Stella's mother. They're written from the perspective of her ghost, observing Stella's life. This wasn't clear to me until partway through the book so I went back to re-read some of the sections with that knowledge.(less)

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Average rating 4.29  · 
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4.5 stars!

THE BREAK by KATHERENA VERMETTE is a dark, gritty, heartbreaking, and a powerful intergenerational family saga that was quite intense and depressing to read. The Break refers to a piece of land between two rows of houses which is outside the home of Stella a young Métis mother who witnessed a violent act on the Break. I think The Break also refers to a more general break in things such as relationships, ourselves, and our past.

This book opens up to a trigger warning to it’s readers but
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
5 huge bright red stars from me!

When I first saw The Break at the bookstore it caught my interest but I decided against it as it had a trigger warning for violence. I can be sensitive to violence however knowing in advance it does take some of the sensitivity away. I saw it again at the library and knew then that I was going to have to read it. It was definitely a good read for me. I felt that Katherena Vermette handled the violence well and is so well written that I didn't feel sensitive toward
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
3.25 Stars (rounded down)

A Heartbreaking novel about Manitoban women, families and friendship and what it means to have the support of those around you.

The Break is a place between two rows of houses. In the winter it is bleak and cold. A young woman named Stella lives on the Break with her husband and two young children. There she witnesses something horrible and extremely violent. No one believes her. Not the police or her husband.

Across town, a Metis family is torn apart. Something bad has ha
Diane S ☔
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it
The first thing I noted when I started reading was how well it was written. The second, how large the cast of characters was, though a genealogical chart was provided. I still found it hard to keep track of who was related to whom, and how. Two young girls are attacked after attending a party without their parents knowledge. One more severely injured than the other. The assault is seen by one of the woman who calls the police. The metas are Canada's indigenous people, and are treated much like o ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
An ok read for me but sadly not one for my favourites list

The Break is a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside the home of Stella a young Métis mother. One evening Stella looks out of her window and spots someone in trouble on the Break ― she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

The story is told in series of shifting narratives, people who are connected both directly and indirectly with the victim, the police, family all tell their own stories leading up to that fatef
Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
2.5 stars

This is the story of four generations of Metis women and their families. It explores their love for one another and bond through life’s daily struggles, stresses and horrors. It is a heart-breaking and haunting novel that will stay with me for quite a while.

I found the entire storyline sad and depressing, which I’m sure most readers will agree with. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters as I found there were too many of them to keep track of. There is a family tree illustration
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a tough read, not because this author can't write. In fact, Katherena Vermette writes well, and I found myself turning the pages quickly in anticipation of finding out what the characters would do next. The subject matter is tough; the book opens with an assault and then deals with the aftermath amongst the women in the family. The author presents three generations of women in the family; their hard lives, how they struggle with their families, the men in their lives, and the perception ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
One of my top reads of 2016. Vermette stuns and reveals with this gritty, heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful story of a circle of indigenous Manitoban women coping with and doing their damndest to heal and heal each other from the violent, racist realities of their lives. Deceptively simple writing that packs a wallop; intricately plotted, in a way that goes deeper than mere cleverness. I'd love it to become required reading for white folks everywhere, but especially white Canadians. ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I held off from reading this one for over a year, because I knew it would be a heavy read with regards to Indigenous issues. And if I'm being honest, sometimes reading fictional accounts of these things too often is miserable.

But this book was different. So, so different.

Yes, it is totally heart-breaking, totally gut-wrenching. The subject matter is tough. But it was fucking beautiful. It didn't gawk at the tragic event that takes place in the book or at its survivors, it didn't make excuses or
Canadian Reader
In Vermette's gritty debut novel, a nominee for Canada's 2016 Governor General's Award for fiction, a thirteen-year-old girl is brutally assaulted in a snowy vacant lot. It is late at night, and a young mother whose house abuts the land, views the scene, "freezes", and then calls the police. One of the officers, Tommy Scott, like both the victim and the witness to the crime, is Metis (a person of mixed aboriginal and European ancestry). He is determined to get to the bottom of what occurred. Cri ...more
Katherena Vermette has written a beautiful heartbreaking book. Surprisingly it is her first novel!

Although this is fictitious, I was drawn into the drama and it felt "raw and real." I felt scared and helpless with Stella, and could emphasize with sisters Paulina and Louisa and their mother, Cheryl. I admired the young Metis policeman and could feel his frustration with his older partner.

I enjoyed this book and could hardly turn the pages fast enough, yet it was so GOOD that I didn't want to co
Lauren Davis
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"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 ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
So glad to finally read a book my Canadian friends have been discussing since the start of 2016! A violent crime occurs in a small community that is an offshoot of the Métis Nation (in Manitoba, Canada.) It's told from alternating perspectives, allowing for multiple generations and connections to speak for themselves. I was struck by the importance of family, how secrets were kept from people to protect them in different ways, how trauma is passed down.

When Shawn Mooney first came on the Readin
luce ❀ wishfully reading ❀ semi hiatus
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The Break is a harrowing yet lucidly written intergenerational family saga that examines the repercussions of a horrific act of violence.
The book opens with Stella, a young Métis mother, witnessing a violent attack on some land near her house. Although torn, Stella doesn’t rush to the victim’s rescue and calls the police instead. When they show up the senior officer is quick to dismiss her, as there is no ‘body’, just some blood, and believ
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it



Made me feel so dark with a feeling of immense helplessness.

I did find this book to be well-written, and I really admire the skill it takes to convincingly wrap words together to form a story that wouldn't let me go.

But I'm feeling a misery in the same way I felt it after reading Birdie. We can argue that the women in this book are strong and resilient, but I'm so sorry that they're put to the test at all, and I don't know what I can possibly do to help them, or share t
Wow. It's not enough, but it's almost all I can say after reading Katherena Vermette's The Break. This book is heavy and dark, but it's also so incredibly important. It was necessary for me, as a Canadian, to read a story about my country from a perspective that is different than my own. I love the Canada Reads competition so much, because it brings stories like this to a greater audience. I actually picked this book up ages ago after Margaret Atwood recommend it on Reco, and I am so glad I fina ...more
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
The Break is the first novel by Canadian poet, film-maker and award-winning author, Katherena Vermette. Late one cold February night, a small-town Canadian Police Department gets a 911 call. Stella McGregor, a young Metis wife and mother, is witnessing an assault on a stretch of land known as The Break, adjacent to her home. While there are still signs of a scuffle in the snow by the time two officers arrive, they are dubious about the witness’s assertion that a woman has been raped: the broken ...more
Jessica Jane
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Although graphic and gutting at times, this is a perfect first novel. The stories of these Metis-Anishnaabe women from Winnipeg's North End demand to be heard, and together form a very real and very timely portrait that turns the mirror on issues of gender, race and the cycle of abuse that haunt our country.

There is no way any review I give The Break will fully do it justice, and I am still feeling a little blindsided by the revelations of the last 50 pages, but suffice it to say that this is go
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've always loved the place my girl calls the Break. I used to walk through it in the summer. There is a path you can go along all the way to the edge of the city, and if you just look down at the grass, you might think you were in the country the whole way. Old people plant gardens there, big ones with tidy rows of corn and tomatoes, all nice and clean. You can't walk through it in the winter though. No one clears a way. In the winter, the Break is just a lake of wind and white, a field of c
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
How does one critique a book that has either won or been a finalist for every literary award in the land, is dubbed an Indigenous novel, and is the debut offering of a young writer positioned for great things in the literary firmament? Answer: Very Carefully. And yet no writer should be spared the observations that hopefully make for better work in the future. So, with that in mind, and mindful that I may also be the object of hate mail, let me try to do justice to this novel.

A four-generational
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s called The Break, but not one catches a break here. This is gritty realism where life is bleak, always, until the end, because for a lot of people the only certainty in life is that things don’t actually get better. Time doesn’t heal wounds, it infects them. How well do you think your life would turn out if you were conceived during the gang rape of a teenaged addict who left you to bounce around from one abusive situation to another, for example? You think you’d stand much of a chance of n ...more
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a beautiful and heart breaking story. I almost put it down about 50 pages in as there were so many characters I was having a hard time keeping track. I continued and by about page 90 I was completely drawn in. This is not a happy story by any means but it is so beautifully written and I became so attached to the characters. This story will stay with me for a long time.
The Break is not an easy book to read. It begins with a very violent assault, late at night, on a snowy strip of land (known as "the break") that separates two neighbourhoods in North End Winnipeg. This tragic event, and the fallout, is the focus of the book, but there's so much more to it than that.

There's no doubt the nature of the story made for a very difficult read, but it's possible for goodness and beauty to grow from pain and misery. In The Break, the goodness and beauty, without a doub
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Break begins when a young mother witnesses an assault being committed outside of her house on a snowy, isolated strip of land in Winnipeg’s North End. While the story centers around this horrible crime, it is not a mystery novel, as it is clear to the reader who the perpetrator is early on. Instead, it is a novel about relationships, particularly the relationships between four generations of Indigenous women – Stella, Emily, Phoenix, Louisa, Cheryl, Zegwan, Paulina, and Flora – who are tied ...more
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was the book that should have won Canada reads, my apologies to André Alexis, but this was the book that could help to heal Canada.

Unfortunately it was eliminated, in a shockingly fast and something not unlike the violence against indigenous women, it was swept under the rug very quickly, to be pushed aside.
This book is not an easy read, because it is not an easy subject. But it is one that has to be read and shared time after time. This book should be on reading lists all over Canada. The
Haunting heart rending novel.

Friendships, struggles and all your emotions thrown int it.

Book 2 is coming out soon, or already I’m not sure. But I won’t be reading it.

Saw this at the library, heard a lot about it.

Was good, but not ready for reading more at the moment.

Iman Verjee
Oct 05, 2016 rated it liked it

After mulling over it for several days, The Break seems slightly weaker to me in retrospect than it did while I was reading it.

This is definitely a page-turner - I read it all night long, I read it on the subway, I read it while waiting for the traffic lights to change - Vermette has done an excellent job of constructing a fast-paced, thrilling plot that just compels you to keep reading.

The themes of pain, abuse, trauma and the stories & fear that we are forced to carry
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Break begins with Stella, a woman who witnesses a violent crime from her kitchen window late at night. Through alternating narratives, the author takes the reader through the lives of those connected with the victim, shining a light on both the violence and struggles within Winnipeg’s North End neighborhood.

Katherena Vermette’s novel, is in a word, bleak. In saying that, it’s not an attempt to dissuade potential readers, just know that I found it tough to get through. On a positive note, whi
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oof, I was not planning on reading this in a day. Now that I've actually read the book, how Canada Reads played out is even more disappointing. ...more
H.A. Leuschel
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my goodness, this was a harrowing and emotional read. Vermette is a Métis writer from Canada who delivers an unflinching and gripping account about a group of Métis women whose voices are all clearly differentiated and the text flowed beautifully between them, bringing together a kaleidoscope of people with past traumas, strong cultural bonds and how both these can be passed down through generations. The author broaches many different and difficult subjects, but the main I think is the horrif ...more
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Katherena Vermette is a Canadian writer, who won the Governor General's Award for English-language poetry in 2013 for her collection North End Love Songs. Vermette is of Metis descent and from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was a MFA student in creative writing at the University of British Columbia.

Her children's picture book series The Seven Teachings Stories was published by Portage and Main Press in 2

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“The dead don't hang on, the living do. The dead don't have anything to hang on to. Our bodies become nothing, and we just float around the people who love us. We go back to nothing. That is all we ever were or should ever be.” 10 likes
“But even in sleep, her ghosts all hunt her down, wanting her to look at them, remember them.” 7 likes
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