The Break

The Break begins with Stella, a Métis mother, calling to report a rape she witnessed on an isolated strip of land in Winnipeg's North End. In the ensuing detective story, two police officers set about discovering who is the victim and who is the attacker. But the deeper they get, the more difficult this differentiation becomes. The narrative interweaves the perspectives of nine women and one man connected to the crime and, in doing so, reveals the tapestry of sexual violence that threads together time, space and the voices of those whose lives are forever altered.

A novel with heavy themes and emotional resonance, The Break rejects much of the underlying simplicity of the detective story while ironically engaging in its classic tropes. Katherena Vermette's approach to her complex and devastating subject matter is boundless in its scope, intelligence and beauty. Her treatment of every character, including the mixed-race, male police officer and the hard-edged, homeless teenager, is both polished in its precision and gentle in its expression of genuine empathy. As a native of Winnipeg's North End, Vermette, in her debut novel, captures the landscape and its people with a keen eye and an exposed heart. As a result, she writes with authenticity and texture that will appeal to fans of Andre Dubus III and Madeleine Thien. Moreover, she opens her novel to a larger thematic reading that will echo in any corner of the world. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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