The Break by Katherena Vermette
Published by Atlantic Books, 2018
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
When a teenage girl is brutally attacked, her extended family – made up almost entirely of Métis women – rallies to her side. Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, cousins; the perspective shifts between these many women, weaving an intergeneration family saga that explores the ideas of identity, community, and the shared process of healing.
This all sounds fantastic, and there’s certainly a lot to admire in Vermette’s intersectional look at the concept of inheritance; be it racial, familial, or gendered. Though not heavily plot focussed, the attack forces the characters to reflect on their own experiences of violence and loss as women from a marginalized ethnic community, showing how tragically commonplace they are. Vermette champions the power of women supporting other women, but also touches on the socioeconomic conditions that can coerce some women into turning on their own, and the horror that comes with that betrayal.
I struggled, however, with the sheer number of viewpoints. Though a large cast of characters was integral to the themes being explored, the narrative voice was too one dimensional. This meant that even by the end, I was still finding it difficult to place and connect everyone within the wider context of the family. I was also a little underwhelmed by the prose itself. Though there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, it lacks a lyricism that would have better carried the slower, ruminative pace, and the understandably heavy subject matter.
It’s worth pointing out that I went into this fully expecting to adore it. It sounded exactly like my cup of tea thematically, and it has glowing reviews online. In that respect, I’m willing to concede that my high expectations may well have contributed to my somewhat lukewarm response. I still think this is a solid novel, well worth the read for those interested in a tender look at the dangers of womanhood, and the beauty of women coming together in search of mutual healing.
You can pick up a copy of The Break from Book Depository by clicking here.