Tea & Talk Book Club / April 2017
Tommy Orange recommended this book in a recent interview. The Break is written in a haunting and heartbreaking narrative with a strong female presence. Set in Winnipeg, Vermette speaks to the struggles of a family of urban Native women, their collective stare into the face of a recent, horrific trauma and the camaraderie which keeps them whole. Vermette has written and powerful but disturbing book.
This is a difficult book to say "I enjoyed" because there really is no 'enjoyment' involved with the story, in my opinion. However, as mournful, depressing and disturbing as I found the first 3/4 to be, I was engaged in the story from the beginning, and certainly felt very moved and weirdly uplifted at the end. My only real criticism of it now that I'm finished as I felt there was too much repetitiveness in the first 3/4; I feel the author could still have made her very very important point without so much repetition, especially as it was confusing at times as to who was who. However, a very interesting and well-written book.
The reverberations of residential school trauma echo down through the internal cruelties within our communities..
intergenerational sexual abuse, a dark legacy connected to almost 120 years of government-sanctioned, church-operated residential schools, where aboriginal leaders say many First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were physically and sexually molested by clergy and other staff, spawning a cycle of mimicked behaviour in generations to come.
Extensive interviews with social scientists, indigenous leaders and victims undertaken over the past few months by The Canadian Press suggest child sexual abuse is an open secret in many aboriginal communities -- and its prevalence in some is shockingly high.
"Few came out of residential schools having learned good boundaries, and good boundaries included some sense of self-determination, sovereignty over your own body," says Sylvia Maracle, executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, based in Toronto.
"They didn't have any control over that, and they didn't see people around with appropriate behaviour and being respectful of them as human beings, that they were sacred. And they were abused, " says Maracle, a Mohawk from eastern Ontario's Tyendinaga First Nation.
"Children learn what they live and that was their life."
second article on first page
"The Break" by Katherena Vermette is a mess of a novel. A horrific incident doesn't make a plot. One darn thing after another can become a plot. But, in The Break, not much more happens than a loose circling about that opening incident. The novel is made up of the back stories of quite a few characters: each presented one character at a time as a chapter. Although many of these characters are related to each other, the story as a whole isn't pushed forward much by these back stories. And oddly, while most of these characters are presented in the third person, two are in the first person. The result is a mess that just confused this reader: who is this story about ? where is this story going ? Not recommended.
I've admired the cover of this book for some time, but only recently decided to give it a turn. I thought maybe I'd just read a few pages, but I was almost immediately pulled in by the writing, and the suspenseful intro--a woman reports a crime, only to be gaslighted by police and by her partner--an interesting twist on the usual "unreliable narrator" theme.
The first scene of this novel had me uneasy, being both heartbreaking and hard to process. With the struggles Stella has to face with taking care of her family and dealing with her upsetting past, the event which takes place outside of her home just adds more weight to her shoulders. My gut would not unclench and it got to a point where I had to stop reading the book for a while until I knew I was ready to continue. This novel deals with a variety of terrifying situations, even classify as every nightmare a mother has for her children. From rape to gang life, these indigenous females have to handle a lot of trouble all at the same time. It was surprising the way all these characters were connected, however it made things a little confusing. It was difficult to piece these sickening incidents together however once I did, it all clicked. The perspective change was very hard to follow for me, however, it never took away from the true meaning of this novel. I would warn others because The Break deals with a lot of heavy topics, and none are in a happy note. 4/5
- @booklover327 of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library
I was reading this book for a book club I lead, otherwise I wouldn't have even considered it. I found myself rather indifferent until the point when the author described the assault that was the seminal event of the novel. At that point I was filled with real anger and completely hooked into the story. I did see something I'd never seen before in any novel I've ever read: a trigger warning on the title page. I have to say that I'm ambivalent about this. On the one hand, the described assault was truly enraging. But on the other hand, this is a novel for adults, with a level of violence no different from thousands of other novels. Regardless of whether or not you think trigger warnings are necessary in novels, this particular warning is useless as it does nothing to prepare readers for what they will encounter.
Katherena Vermette is a talented story -teller.
The Break is an original , subtle tale following the lives of women who struggle
On the outside of hope, and how their reaction to one event is shaped by
No surprise that some are uncomfortable with the realities imbedded in this 'fiction'.
Somehow the act of making food always feels like doing something when we are helpless to do anything else.
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