When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.
In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected with the victim tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister, Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg's North End is exposed. (From House of Anansi Press)
Katherena Vermette's novel The Break was defended by Candy Palmater on Canada Reads 2017. The book was eliminated on Day One of the debates.
The Break was nominated for multiple awards, including the Governor General's Literary Awards, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and won three awards at the 2017 Manitoba Book Awards.
The Strangers, a follow-up novel set in the same world as The Break, will be released in fall 2021.
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From the book
It is so late it's early. She had waited hours for the police to come. Waited shaking, thinking they would come at any moment. She was unable to stop cleaning or crying. She should have called her Kookom then. She would've been asleep, but she still would've answered. Or Aunty Cher, she would've come over, made the coffee, yelled at the cops when they started acting like they didn't believe her. But Stella didn't do any of that.
Jeff gets up, stands behind her at the sink and pulls her into his arms, forcing her into a hug. She waits until he's done so she can ring out the wet cloth.
"You were half asleep. And it's okay. It's okay. But with your past, hon, you know you could've just been dreaming. You could've just been confused."
She breaks away from him and goes to wipe the table. "There's blood all over out there," she says over her shoulder as she storms out of the kitchen again. The wind picking up outside, knocking at the old window.
"No one says nothing happened," he sighs. "It just might be different than you think."
She doesn't say anything, just scrubs.
From The Break by Katherena Vermette ©2016. Published by House of Anansi Press.