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Fiction Cultural Heritage

All the Broken Things

by (author) Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Jan 2014
Cultural Heritage, Literary, Animals
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2014
    List Price

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A novel of exceptional heart and imagination about the ties that bind us to each other, broken and whole, from one of the most exciting voices in Canadian fiction.
September, 1983. Fourteen-year-old Bo, a boat person from Vietnam, lives in a small house in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto with his mother, Thao, and his four-year-old sister, who was born severely disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange. Named Orange, she is the family secret; Thao keeps her hidden away, and when Bo's not at school or getting into fights on the street, he cares for her.
One day a carnival worker and bear trainer, Gerry, sees Bo in a streetfight, and recruits him for the bear wrestling circuit, eventually giving him his own cub to train. This opens up a new world for Bo--but then Gerry's boss, Max, begins pursuing Thao with an eye on Orange for his travelling freak show. When Bo wakes up one night to find the house empty, he knows he and his cub, Bear, are truly alone. Together they set off on an extraordinary journey through the streets of Toronto and High Park. Awake at night, boy and bear form a unique and powerful bond. When Bo emerges from the park to search for his sister, he discovers a new way of seeing Orange, himself and the world around them.
All the Broken Things is a spellbinding novel, at once melancholy and hopeful, about the peculiarities that divide us and bring us together, and the human capacity for love and acceptance.

About the author

Critics described the stories in Way Up, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's first book of fiction, as "some of the most impressive examples of new Canadian fiction in recent memory." Published in 2003, Way Up received a Danuta Gleed Award and was a finalist for the Relit Award. The Nettle Spinner, her first novel, was shortlisted for the in Canada First Novel award and was also named a best of 2005 by January magazine. Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is the former fiction editor of The Literary Review of Canada and has also worked as a tree-planter, a lumberjack, and a baker. Her reviews have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto and is the Magazine Editor for

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's profile page


  • Short-listed, Toronto Book Award

Editorial Reviews

FINALIST 2015 – Toronto Book Award
All the Broken Things is a strange, beautiful novel about the fundamental human need to be seen and to be loved. Kuitenbrouwer’s Bear Boy, Bo, is an unforgettable creation—a true survivor who carries within him both the poison of war and its antidote. His creator is a fearless writer: she considers the full spectrum of human nature—from the monstrous to the wondrous—with a clear gaze and a capacious heart.”
—Alissa York, author of Effigy and Fauna
All the Broken Things enchanted me, opened my eyes, broke my heart, made me wonder, left me changed. Kuitenbrouwer has told a remarkable story that explores the tenuous thresholds between illusion and reality, myth and history, monstrosity and beauty. This is a truly magical and important book.”
—Jessica Grant, author of Come, Thou Tortoise
All the Broken Things is a dreamy, tender elegy to human failure and imperfection.”
—Miriam Toews, author of A Complicated Kindness and Irma Voth

User Reviews

All the Broken Things

Really I would be more like a 4.5 here if that was an option :)
I really liked this book, I tore through it I could not put it down.
I thought that it dreamily broke my heart.
The characters were interesting and the topics were harsh but so is reality.
I was compelled to do research after, and yes many of these things are true.

A beautiful book.

A gem of a novel

I received an ARC copy of "All the Broken Things" by author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer via Goodreads.

The novel shares the story of Bo,a teenage refugee who arrived to Canada from Vietnam with his mother Rose and younger sister Orange. The family, seeking freedom and peace in their new country, begins to experience new challenges including racism, stigma and poverty. They are vulnerable to their new surroundings and must rely on the charity of the locals, while others take advantage of their naive and desperate circumstance. The after-effects of being exposed to Agent Orange had caused Bo's sister to be born disfigured and requiring additional care. His mother goes to all lengths to hide Orange away from the rest of the world, while Bo struggles with both his shame and wanting to introduce his sister to the life she deserves. Bo is leered into the carnival entertainment of the time, yearning for a sense of belonging and accomplishment. This is his escape and a means to provide for his family. This is a story of a young teen lost in his new world, wanting to gain the independence and freedom that his family was desperately seeking.

The author uses beautiful prose and her writing style allows the reader to experience every emotion which can be felt right down to the core. This is not a warm and fuzzy story; it is filled with loss, tragedy and discomfort. The story has themes of love, dedication, perseverance, friendship, deceit,and survival. The author wrote a gem of a novel to which I would highly recommend.

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