Canada Reads·Reading List

6 books to read if you loved The Break

If you loved this Canada Reads contender, here are some great reads for your TBR pile.
Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer who won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 2013. (CBC)

If you loved Katherena  Vermette's novel, here are six more great books we think you'll enjoy.

Candy Palmater championed The Break during Canada Reads 2017, March 27–30.

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg

Birdie is a novel by Tracey Lindberg. (Stacy Swanson, HarperCollins Canada)

What it's about: A young Cree woman comes to terms with her abusive childhood. Birdie was Tracey  Lindberg's debut novel and was championed by Bruce Poon Tip on Canada Reads 2016.

If your favourite thing about The Break was: Poetic writing. A family's trauma. Shedding light on the trials facing young Indigenous women. Crying your heart out. 

From the book: "Bernice owns two pairs of shoes. She thinks you can tell a lot about someone by the shoes she wears. She owns a pair of sneakers for work and a pair of five-inch heels she found at a Sally Ann. Both serve a purpose. Neither, she thinks, tells you anything about her except how she spends her time. You can tell a lot about most people by their shoes, she thinks.

"How she spends her time is more and more often a mystery to her. Hours seem to slip away without her noticing. Once in a while, Bernice will find herself sitting so still and quiet that she might be asleep. She is not, though. While she is not entirely sure what she is doing, she is quite sure of what she is not doing. And. Sleeping. Is not on the list."

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

(Babak Salari/Knopf Canada)

What it's about: Madeleine Thien's novel centres on three gifted musicians whose lives are profoundly impacted by the political shifts of 20th century China. The book won the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

If your favourite thing about The Break was: Shifting perspectives. A family saga that spans generations. Pain and grief that begins and ends with historical trauma.

From the book: "In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. That year, 1989, my mother flew to Hong Kong and laid my father to rest in a cemetery near the Chinese border. Afterwards, distraught, she rushed home to Vancouver where I had been alone. I was ten years old."

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

(Milkweed Editions/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: Franklin Starlight, 16, has never had much of a relationship with his father, Eldon, a veteran and alcoholic. But he accepts his father's dying request to bring him to the mountains for a traditional Ojibway burial. Throughout the journey, Eldon tells Frank stories about his poor childhood and military service, in a final bid to connect with his son.

If your favourite thing about The Break was: Beautiful storytelling. Deep characters with complicated family dynamics. A look inside the legacy of colonialism.

From the book: "He walked the old mare out of the pen and led her to the gate that opened out into the field. There was a frost from the night before, and they left tracks behind them. He looped the rope around the middle rail of the fence and turned to walk back to the barn for the blanket and saddle. The tracks looked like inkblots in the seeping melt, and he stood for a moment and tried to imagine the scenes they held. He wasn't much of a dreamer though he liked to play at it now and then. But he could only see the limp grass and mud of the field and he shook his head at the folly and crossed the pen and strode through the open black maw of the barn door."

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

Wab Kinew is a politican and the author of The Reason You Walk. (Anthony Thosh Collins/Penguin Canada)

What it's about: A memoir by politician and broadcaster Wab Kinew. After his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Kinew was determined to reconnect with his father, a residential school survivor and respected chief. In the process, Kinew reflects on his own troubled youth.

If your favourite thing about The Break was:  Themes of love, family and forgiveness. The complex nature of identity within the context of historical trauma and colonialism in Canada. 

From the book: "More than any inheritance, more than any sacred item, more than any title, the legacy he left behind is this: as on that day in the sundance circle when he lifted me from the depths, he taught us that during our time on earth we ought to love one another, and that when our hearts are broken, we ought to work hard to make them whole again.

"This is at the centre of sacred ceremonies practised by Indigenous people. This is what so many of us seek, no matter where we begin life.

"This is the reason you walk."

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

(Chris Young/Knopf Canada)

What it's about: Jared, a 16-year-old famous for his weed cookies, struggles to keep his dysfunctional family afloat. His mother is violent, his father is absent and his grandmother despises him — referring to him as "son of a trickster." Also, he has the ability to talk to ravens.

If your favourite thing about The Break was: The feeling of being dropped into a small Canadian community and witnessing its drama firsthand. Family, family, family.   

From the book: "Jared didn't miss any practices, but he wasn't the most dedicated team player. He did like running, though. The rain stung. His windbreaker was sopping wet. Snowflakes streaked white in the grey downpour. Looming in the background, higher than the other mountains, the sharp peak of Mount Elizabeth was draped in a bridal-white blanket of new snow. The snowline had been creeping down the mountains in the valley all week and Jared's friends were psyched about the fresh powder. He stopped to check the time. Friday afternoon and school was almost out. The days you want to last go the quickest, he thought. He could go inside if he wanted, but his eyes were swollen and kids had been staring. He didn't want to explain his mood or the reason for it."

The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy by Cherie Dimaline

(Theytus Books)

What it's about: With each new trauma, a new planet blooms in the orbit of Ruby Bloom's head. The planets each have a name: one is Guilt, another Anxiety, and there's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder too. All weigh heavily on Ruby's mind.

If your favourite thing about The Break was: Life through the eyes of a young woman. Turbulent emotions. Resilient characters. 

From the book: "The galaxy prevents Ruby from getting real sleep and hinders the wearing of hats so she must settle for thin ribbons and barrettes on special occasions. It's this chaotic yet delicately balanced universe stuck fast around her dark head that alienates Ruby from the rest of the world because for maintenance reasons she must remain isolated.

"The universe didn't start with a big bang of cosmic proportions; instead it grew out of trauma that occurred in the middle of an otherwise quiet childhood. It began the day Ruby Bloom, age seven and a half, killed her grandfather."


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