KATHERENA VERMETTE, HOUSE OF ANANSI PRESS, 288 PP., $22.95
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. ■
—SAMANTHA MARIE NOCK