The Break by Katherena Vermette

1. First lines 2. Publisher: Allen and Unwin 3. Sexual Assault Awareness Month – Tinker Air Force Base photo illustration by Margo Wright 4. The Henday Converter Station near Sundance, Manitoba. Licence CC BY-SA 3.0 by Jasonbook99 via Wikimedia Commons 5. Fear via Pixabay


Plot summary: Set in Winnipeg, near Hydro land (land owned by Manitoba Hydro, Winnipeg’s energy provider), a Metis (First Nation) family is struggling to deal with a violent attack on one of their own. The story is told from the point of view of the women in the family. The one male voice is that of Tommy, a Metis Police Officer, as he pieces together who the attacker is.

“In the sixties, Indians started moving in, once Status Indians could leave reserves. … That was when the Europeans slowly started creeping out of the neighbourhood like a man sneaking away from a sleeping woman in the dark.”

Genuine is tattooed across his collarbones, the large, almost-square letters. There’s a large knife over his heart, the blade shiny and dripping with blood, the handle wrapped in sinew ties with a small feather hanging off the end. He has a skull with a full headdress on his right shoulder.”

~Quotes from “The Break” by Katherena Vermette


  • “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.” Full review: The Global Mail
  • “While the content is heavy and often difficult to bear witness to, it is never hopeless. Exhausting, maybe, but never desolating. The “break,” as a concept, may, in some senses, refer to violence and division, but, for Vermette and her narrators, it is also home.” Full review: Novel Alliances

Other editions: Atlantic Books; House of Anansi

Awards: Winner 2017 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction; Winner 2017 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award; Winner 2017 McNally Robinson Book of the Year; Finalist 2017 Canada Reads; Finalist 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award; Finalist 2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; Longlist 2018 Dublin Literary Prize

The Break Chapter Sampler by Allen & Unwin on Scribd     Reading group guide (PDF)   Author’s website

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