There's a reason it's taken me so long to write the next post about Vermette's "The Break." And it's not just because I was busy, though I was. It's because I recognized myself and my family in that book. My sisters and my aunts and my brother and cousins.
I've realized this: that usually when I read a novel I feel something like a anthropologist-fly on the wall, witnessing the unfolding of the stories that aren't my own. There are parts I understand, bits I know, but, for the most part, I am enjoying the unravelling of motivations and understandings that don't really match mine.
I have rarely read about a family or family dynamics that match the one I come from. (There are a couple of exceptions and I'll write about those books in future posts.)
What I've found is that recognition is uncomfortable for me.
I live in a small city right now. I've lived here for about eight years. I go out and people know me, know my children, know my partner. This, I notice is comforting for some people, For others, it's a bit too much, perhaps. But I've found myself puzzled by this recognition, by being seen by others. I moved around a lot and my family was so different than others that I never really got the hang of belonging, you could say.
This book is a more intense form of that. I go outside my house expecting the anonymity I've had for most of my life. Not to have that is disconcerting, not bad, but it takes adjustment. I go into novels to read about different lives, read about women I've never been and never will be. In this book, for the first time in a long time (maybe ever--I have to think about that), I've found my family, my grandmother, my mother and aunts and sisters-- and my culture.
I don't know. The shock of this unexpected recognition is deeply emotional. It shows me the absences around which so much of my life has been lived. I miss something that was never named, growing up.
And I had to put the book aside.
I'm back to it now, though. I'll have another response soon.
Thank you Katherena Vermette.