Canada Reads 2017: The Break

Two years ago, I tuned into the Canada Reads debate for the first time. I ended up reading two of the books after the fact (one of which, When Everything Feels Like The Movies stays with me still).

Last year, I read two of the books ahead of the debate (progress!). I bought the winner soon after it was over and have yet to read it (because that’s how I roll).

This year I’ve bought two of the books and currently, I’ve read one. I’ll read the other one but I hope The Break wins.


Katherena Vermette’s debut novel, The Break, centres on a sexual assault that takes place in the middle of the night. Stella, a young Metis mother, hears something outside and, fearing that someone is hurt but unable to leave her house and her children, she calls the police. The book tells the story leading up to that night and it’s aftermath from rotating, multi-generational viewpoints: the sisters, cousins, mothers and aunts that make up one Aboriginal family affected, their friends, and a young Metis police officer assigned to investigate the case.

The Break slowly burns into an inferno of a book. It rightfully comes with a trigger warning due to scenes of sexual and physical violence and those scenes are brutal. But they don’t take away from the beauty of this book.

Vermette weaves a layered tale involving perspectives from mothers, daughters, lost children, of Aboriginal women who have chosen to forge a life in the city away from their ancestral lands and traditions. It is a commentary on the value our country has placed on these women, how easily we dismiss their concerns, the destruction of their young. Vermette’s vivid characters belong to a sisterhood long used to fending for themselves, who worry for their children and how the world will view them.

The whole idea of Canada Reads is that we’re supposed to find that one book that the country needs to read. In the face of all that is wrong in this country when it comes to Aboriginal relations, I think it would benefit the country massively to read The Break. It is a the kind of book that breaks you wide open and lets some much needed light in.


10 thoughts on “Canada Reads 2017: The Break

  1. I really loved this book. And I recommend her book of poetry, too, even if you’re not normally a poetry reader. It’s very accessble and feels all-of-a-piece with this book (even though not all the themes of the novel appear in the poems).

    Agreed about the staying power of Everything Feels Like the Movies. It took me awhile to get up the nerve to read that one!

  2. I’ve read most of the final 5 now, and this one just stands way out ahead of the others to me. Can’t wait to see what Candy Palmater has to say about it, and how any of the others can even compete with her choice!

    • I’m about halfway through The Right To Be Cold and I’m really enjoying it but The Break lodged itself in my heart and hasn’t quite let go. I’m definitely rooting for it – I think Candy will be an excellent champion!

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