“The Break” by Katherena Vermette

This is the up-close story of a number of Indigenous girls and women living in a northern Canadian town and suffering some form of hurt and disaster for which they have not been helped. We hear about these women as a group, but this book shows what they suffer individually.

It begins with a possible incident on The Break, the name given a strip of barren land that runs through a poorer part of town. Stella, a young Metis mother, looks out and sees a body knocked down and blood on the ground. When the police come, they don’t believe her story. The rest of the book introduces a number of other girls and women from First Nations who have their own tragedies. They all turn to each other for comfort, and usually have a wise and kind grandmother, called Kookom who helps them through. There is also Officer Scott, a Metis policeman, who feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city.

This is Katherena Vermette’s first book of fiction (she has published North End Love Songs, a book of poetry). She does a fine job of showing the resiliency of Indigenous women and the power of family love and also helps the rest of us try to understand how to help them.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall