Canadian Art - - Reviews -

The Break weaves to­gether the sto­ries of four gen­er­a­tions of Métis women liv­ing in the north-end neigh­bour­hood in Win­nipeg. With The Break, Kather­ena Ver­mette re­vis­its many of the themes she tied to­gether in her first po­etry col­lec­tion, North End Love Songs: love, trauma, prej­u­dice, and in­ner-city life. Ver­mette’s first novel is a state­ment about the strength and power of Métis fam­i­lies.

The cen­tral nar­ra­tive of the novel is grounded in the vi­o­lent at­tack on Emily, who is the teenaged daugh­ter of Paulina, and the great-grand­daugh­ter of the head of the fam­ily—flora (af­fec­tion­ately called “Kookom” by Paulina’s daugh­ters). The novel fol­lows the im­pact of Emily’s at­tack on the women in the fam­ily, and the ways in which this vi­o­lence has rip­pled through­out their lives. The at­tack is an echo of early vi­o­lence they ex­pe­ri­enced with the mur­der of Paulina’s aunt, Lor­raine. Emily’s at­tack has reaches out­side of the fam­ily, im­pact­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer Tommy Scott as well—a Métis man com­ing to terms with his Indi­gene­ity.

The Break is a heart­break­ing and heart-heal­ing book. Read­ing it as a Métis woman, I felt like these char­ac­ters could have been mem­bers of my fam­ily. The Break is about much more than a vi­o­lent crime. The way these women speak, in­ter­act and have an un­spo­ken bond that pulls them to­gether in times of need shows the love and re­silience of Métis women. ■


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