Katherena Vermette

The Break

Winner, Amazon First Novel Award 2017
McNally Robinson Book of the Year
Margaret Laurence Literary Fiction Prize
Carol Shield Winnipeg Book Prize
Finalist for the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction
Finalist for the 2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
Finalist for  Canada Reads 2017
First Book in Unreserved’s Indigenous Book Club on CBC Radio
Globe and Mail, Amazon.ca, and National Post Bestseller


The Break tells the story of a multi-generational Métis family in present-day North End Winnipeg. A violent assault occurs in the Break, that barren place where the electrical towers stand in one, long row along an isolated strip of land, and where the snow piles in large drifts during the harsh, Winnipeg winter. The lives of the perpetrator, victim, police officer, aunties, uncles, cousins, and friends  all intertwine. These characters are torn: between cultures, between the city and the bush, between hope and despair. Their redemption lies especially with the women, whose strength and support  sustains their extended family  throughout life’s trials. With her great capacity for love, Kookom, great-grandmother and the family matriarch, provides shelter, sustenance and understanding in the refuge of her welcoming home.

Tough and tender-hearted, The Break is written with the great power and conviction that arises from Katherena’s raw talent as a writer, and from her profound devotion to her heritage and to our First Nations peoples.

Rights available: Rights available: World, excluding English-language right in Canada (Anansi), English-language rights in ANZ and UK (Allen & Unwin), Bulgarian-language rights (ZHAR), French-language rights in Canada (Québec Amérique). German (Luchterhand) For more information about rights to this title, please contact rights@anansi.ca

Category: Literary Fiction    Length: 354

Praise for The Break:

“Katherena Vermette’s debut novel, The Break, takes a tough, close-up look at an extended family in Winnipeg, tackling along the way a side of female life that’s often hard to acknowledge: the violence girls and women sometimes display towards other girls and women, and the power struggles among them. In The Break, the characters may be Métis, but the motivations and emotions are surely universal. This is an accomplished writer who will go far.”

– Margaret Atwood

“The lives of the girls and women in The Break are not easy, but their voices — complex, urgent, and unsparing — lay bare what it means to survive, not only once, but multiple times, against the forces of private and national histories. Katherena Vermette is a tremendously gifted writer, a dazzling talent.”

– Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

“Vermette is a staggering talent. Reading The Break is like a revelation; stunning, heartbreaking, and glorious. From her exquisitely rendered characters to her full realized world and the ratcheting tension, I couldn’t put it down. Absolutely riveting.”

– Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach

“Vermette offers us a dazzling portrayal of the patchwork quilt of pain and trauma that women inherit, of the “big and small half-stories that make up a life.” These are the stories our mothers, sisters and friends have told us – the stories we absorb into our bloodstream until they might as well be our own. . .a stunning debut – a novel whose 10 voices, Greek chorus-like, span the full range of human possibility, from its lowest depths to its most brilliant triumphs, as they attempt to make sense of this tragic crime and of their own lives. The Break is an astonishing act of empathy, and its conclusion is heartbreaking. A thriller gives us easy answers – a victim and a perpetrator, good guys and bad guys. The Break gives us the actual mess of life.”

– Marjorie Celona, The Globe and Mail

“[Vermette] creates unforgettable characters with honour, respect, and a deft hand. In so doing she hold the reader’s tender love in her capable hands and weaves us right into the story. The Break is unforgettable.”

– Lee Maracle, author of Celia’s Song

“With adeptness and sensitivity, Vermette puts a human face to issues that are too-often misunderstood, and in so doing, she has written a book that is both one of the most important of the year and one of the best. . . . Vermette is a fully matured literary talent confronting some of our society’s fundamental problems through understated prose that exudes wisdom and emotion. Every page hides beauty amid suffering; love winning out over violence and hate. Stella, at one point in the novel, thinks about “[a] story that didn’t happen to her but that she keeps and remembers.” The Break is like that; it is a story that will stick with you a long time.”

– Michael Melgaard, The National Post

“This masterfully written narrative shifts among the intergenerational voices of the women of one extended Indigenous family. The Break is a powerful, persuasive novel about the strength and love that bind these women to each other and to the men in their lives. The traditions and wisdom of a community are honoured, as is the exquisite individual humanity of each character. Although this is a novel of social importance, it transcends politics, taking the reader on a journey to the heart of what it means for one person to care about another, survive trauma, and endure.”

– Jury Citation, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize 2016

“Full of richly drawn, perfectly imperfect characters, and as difficult as the subject matter is, The Break is impossible to put down. In writing as beautiful as it is stark, Vermette brings the reader inside the world where thousands of Indigenous women in this country have gone missing or been murdered. . . . In Vermette’s poetic prose, The Break offers a stark portrayal of the adversity that plagues First Nations women in this country — and the strength that helps them survive.”

– Dene Moore, The Toronto Star


Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer of poetry, fiction, and children’s literature. In addition to winning the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 2013, her first book, North End Love Songs is the 2015 selection for Manitoba’s book club, On the Same Page. Katherena was a finalist for the inaugural Beatrice Mosionier Aboriginal Writer of the Year Award. Her work has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies around the globe. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is working on her next novel, which is the pre-quel to The Break.


Follow Katherena on Twitter at: @katherenav



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