Book review – The Break by Katherena Vermette

I already spoke about this book in my February reading update, but I wanted to share a few more thoughts as this is one of the books in the Novel Editions February box and we’ll be discussing it during the monthly book discussion, which is happening on Wednesday.


The Break was gripping from the very start. It’s not an easy read – in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s gut-wrenching at times.

On the surface, this is a story about a violent sexual assault, but it’s so much deeper than that. Vermette dives into the lives of each of the central characters (the victim, her family, the perpetrator, and one of the cops investigating the incident). We learn, quickly, that this is also about family, society, hope, and being Native. Each and every one of the characters has been shaped by the pain of assault, broken relationships, the death of loved ones, racism, and family connections (or, the lack thereof). It’s tragic and beautiful narrative.

There are no happy endings in this book – everyone is still left to deal with the long term effects of the books event. But, we’re left with hope – hope that the victim will rise above her assault, hope that the family will heal its wounds, hope that Pauline will allow herself to trust Peter, and hope that the family, as a whole, will keep standing tall against all the forces trying to beat them down.

Something that I haven’t seen mentioned in other reviews is how Vermette tackled the perpetrator. She didn’t present this person as evil, but as person with their own demons. Yes, they were a bully and had chosen a life of violence. And, yes, their actions were terrible, but they were shaped by a troubled mother and a difficult life. They’re tough and mean, but they’re also broken. What set them apart from the victim and her family was that they didn’t have the support they needed, so they closed themselves off, choosing gang life and loyalties as a substitute for family and love. They choose anger, and let that anger guide them to do a terrible thing to a young girl.

If nothing else this story shows us how the cycle of abuse and trauma can affect a whole family and how a single trauma can affect generations. Even the sister who married and closed herself off from the hardships of her old life and old community still couldn’t escape completely.

Whatever else you think or know, that is the most important thing about me. That I loved and was loved.

Ultimately, I think that this book is an important book for people to read. It touches on so many important issues facing Canada today, especially Native Canadian communities, and it could help people to be more empathetic and understanding.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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2 Responses to Book review – The Break by Katherena Vermette

  1. Pingback: Reading update | Periwinkle playground

  2. Pingback: Novel Editions – book box subscription | Periwinkle playground

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