The Break by Katherena Vermette

The dead don’t hang on, the living do. The dead don’t have anything to hang on to. Our bodies become nothing, and we just float around the people who love us. We go back to nothing. That is all we ever were or should ever be.
— Katherena Vermette, The Break

Within hours of arriving to Paris, Ontario, my father and I went to the Green Heron Books - a used bookstore owned by a kind, old man. He uses a sticky note system, hand-writing notes on his small selection of books to indicate his preferences. There, we found this book, The Break by Katherena Vermette, with the note, 'My vote for Canada Reads 2017'. It seemed a sign. 

This book's characters are Métis, from the Métis Nation of Western Canada, and almost all of them (9 of 10 narrators) are women. A crime is witnessed and the reader follows the moments leading up to and the days after the crime, alongside the present and past of each character. A huge and appreciated theme of the book is sisterhood. While trust in the police force is weak, if not nonexistent, there is nothing but trust between these women, across four generations. Vermette also captures, without becoming too sentimental, uncomfortable scenarios that people of the Métis Nation have faced: othering, abuse, rape, gang violence, alcoholism and drug abuse, single parenting, etc. 

The Break is a fast-paced, thrilling, heartfelt and heartbreaking read about the family that remains strong through, not only one tragedy, but a history of loss and love, and the brokenness of a girl without much family left. A jewel out of Canada, Vermette proves herself a strong and thoughtful voice in modern literature. Surprised that this is her first novel, I am eager to soon check out her book of poetry, which has already won her the Governor General's Literary Award.