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category: Fiction
published: Sep 2016
ISBN:9781487001117

The Break

by Katherena Vermette

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literary, native american & aboriginal
0 of 5
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
list price: $22.95
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
category: Fiction
published: Sep 2016
ISBN:9781487001117
Description

2017 Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Literature Finalist

Winner, Amazon.ca First Novel Award

Winner, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction

Winner, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

Winner, McNally Robinson Book of the Year

A Canada Reads 2017 finalist

National Bestseller

2016 Governor General’s Literary Award Finalist

2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalist

National Post 99 Best Books of the Year

CBC Best Canadian Debut Novels 2016

Globe and Mail Best 100 Books of 2016

Quill & Quire Book of the Year

Kobo Best Books of the Year

Walrus Magazine The Best Books of 2016

49th Shelf Books of the Year

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, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.

A powerful intergenerational family saga, The Break showcases Vermette’s abundant writing talent and positions her as an exciting new voice in Canadian literature.

About the Author
Katherena Vermette is a Metis writer of poetry, fiction, and children's literature. Her first book, North End Love Songs, won the 2013 Governor General Literary Award for Poetry. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in several literary magazines and anthologies. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia, and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Contributor Notes

KATHERENA VERMETTE is a Métis writer from Treaty One territory, the heart of the Métis nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses Company), won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her NFB short documentary, this river, won the Coup de Coeur at the Montreal First Peoples Festival and a Canadian Screen Award. Her first novel, The Break, is the winner of three Manitoba Book Awards and the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, and it was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and CBC Canada Reads.

Awards
  • Winner, Amazon.ca First Novel Award
  • Short-listed, Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Literature
  • Winner, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
  • Winner, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award
  • Winner, McNally Robinson Book of the Year
  • Short-listed, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award
Editorial Reviews

One of the great Indigenous novels.

— First Nations Voice

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.

— Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

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.

— The Uniter

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.

— The National Post

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.

— Globe and Mail

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.

— Quill and Quire

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.

— 2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury Lauren B. Davis, Trevor Ferguson, and Pasha Malla

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.

— Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach 

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.

— Margaret Atwood

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.

— The Winnipeg Review

A visionary debut novel.

— CBC Books

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.

— Lee Maracle, author of Celia’s Song

Stunning . . . [Vermette] chooses her words with a poet’s precision.

— Literary Review of Canada

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.

— The Toronto Star

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.

— The Globe and Mail

It’s a timely novel that will keep you turning the pages and make you think well after you’ve turned the final one.

— Niagara This Week

Praise for Katherena Vermette and The Break:
FINALIST, 2017 BURT AWARD FOR FIRST NATIONS, INUIT, AND MÉTIS LITERATURE
WINNER, AMAZON.CA FIRST NOVEL AWARD
WINNER, MARGARET LAURENCE AWARD FOR FICTION
WINNER, CAROL SHIELDS WINNIPEG BOOK AWARD
WINNER, MCNALLY ROBINSON BOOK OF THE YEAR
INDIGO HEATHER’S PICK
CBC CANADA READS FINALIST
NATIONAL BESTSELLER
2016 ROGERS WRITERS’ TRUST FICTION PRIZE FINALIST
2016 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S LITERARY AWARD FINALIST
QUILL & QUIRE BOOK OF THE YEAR (2016)
KOBO BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR (2016)
49TH SHELF BOOKS OF THE YEAR (2016)
GLOBE AND MAIL BEST 100 BOOKS OF 2016
NATIONAL POST 99 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR (2016)
WALRUS MAGAZINE THE BEST BOOKS OF 2016
CBC BEST CANADIAN DEBUT NOVELS OF 2016
“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.” — Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing
“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.” — Lee Maracle, author of Celia’s Song
“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.” — Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach
“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.” — Toronto Star
“It’s unsurprising that a novel by a poet would be beautifully written . . . The Break is an astonishing act of empathy, and its conclusion is heartbreaking.” — Globe and Mail
“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.” — National Post
The Break doesn’t read like an impressive first novel; it reads like a masterstroke from someone who knows what they’re doing . . . 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.” The Winnipeg Review
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.” — The Uniter
The Break is a condemnation of reprehensible individual behaviour, but also of a broader society incapable of dealing effectively with problems of addiction, poverty, homelessness, and despair . . . The Break offers clear insight into people struggling to secure a place in the world.” — Quill & Quire
“[A] brave and important novel.” — The Eastern Door
“A visionary debut novel.” — CBC Books
“Stunning . . . [Vermette] chooses her words with a poet’s precision.” — Literary Review of Canada
“One of the great Indigenous novels” — First Nations Voice
“Equal parts page-turner and stunning literary accomplishment.” — Open Book
“This is a debut novel by the Governor General's Literary Award-winning Métis poet Katherena Vermette. The story takes place in Winnipeg's North End. And it starts when Stella thinks she sees a violent assault taking place in a barren strip of land outside her window, known as The Break. Turns out, she is right. In fact, there is a threat of violence that hovers over all the women in the story, three generations of them, and the story is told in many voices. Katherena writes with empathy and understanding about people who are living with the pain of intergenerational trauma. The Winnipeg winter she evokes is cold and cruel. But there is such love, loyalty and support in this story. If you enjoy a gripping family saga, I would recommend The Break.” — Shelagh Rogers, CBC The Next Chapter
“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.” — Globe and Mail
“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.” — Margaret Atwood
“This intimate and emotional look at their lives succeeds both as a novel and as a work of social justice.” — Booklist STARRED REVIEW
“Vermette portrays a wide array of strong, complicated, absolutely believable women, and through them and their hardships offers readers sharp views of race and class issues. This is slice-of-life storytelling at its finest.” — Publishers WeeklySTARRED REVIEW

Praise for North End Love Songs:
WINNER, GOVERNOR GENERAL’S LITERARY AWARD FOR POETRY
SELECTION, “On the Same Page” (Manitoba’s provincial book club)
“In spare, minimalist language, North End Love Songs attends to the demands of Indigenous and European poetics, braiding an elegant journey that takes us from Winnipeg’s North End out into the world.” — Governor General’s Literary Award jury citation
“In North End Love Songs, Katherena Vermette uses spare language and brief, telling sketches to illuminate the aviary of a prairie neighbourhood. Vermette’s love songs are unconventional and imminent, an examination and a celebration of family and community in all weathers, the beautiful as well as the less clement conditions. This collection is a very moving tribute, to the girls and the women, the boys and the men, and the loving trouble that has forever transpired between us.” — Joanne Arnott
“The love that sits at the core of Katherena Vermette’s North End Love Songs is not simple or serene, but pugnacious and ferocious, something to be alternately fled from as well as embraced. … Vermette’s poetry explores a landscape that she at once rejects … but elsewhere speaks of with a great sense of love and longing….[T]hese North End Love Songs are loud and heightened, but also possess a surprising vulnerability. The collection’s subjects are often wounded and sometimes disappear, as both the inner and outer landscapes that Vermette explores have the tendency to turn hostile. …. North End Love Songs embraces the difficulties, the stumbling and the groping, and all the chilly, ugly elements than can nonetheless combine into a sense of place and home.” —The Walrus
“From a mixed-blood Métis woman with Mennonite roots, Kate weaves a story that winds its way through the north end (Nor-tend) of Winnipeg. It’s a story of death, birth, survival, beauty, and ugliness; through it all there are glimmers of hope, strength, and a will to survive whatever this city throws at you.” — Duncan Mercredi
“North End Love Songs … combines elegiac and fiercely ecstatic melodies to sing of a complicated love for a city, a river, and a neighbourhood. It is deep rooted in its location, yet will reach out to readers everywhere with its harsh and beautiful tunings of growing up female in Winnipeg's North End.” — Prairie Fire

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