Rowan is a bestselling mystery writer married to Gabe, a successful playwright. Their status as a beautiful, perfect couple receives a boost when they are expecting their first child. Harrison, who is Gabe’s friend and agent, arranges a dinner, bringing along June, the young woman he’s dating. The two women become friends. But after Rowan experiences a traumatic birth experience and suffers an emotional breakdown. she accuses June, their occasional babysitter, of trying to harm the baby. And when June disappears, Rowan fears she may be responsible for the young woman’s death.
Rowan is over the moon in love with her new daughter, Lila, but she can’t remember anything about the birth. During sessions with Sylvie, a therapist, Rowan struggles to recall what happened during the delivery. It’s a slow stressful process. Gabe, concerned about Rowan’s state of mind, keeps her isolated from her friends, even her mother who is living in a care facility with early signs of dementia. But Rowan, obsessed with apologizing to June, arranges to meet her in a coffee shop. Although June accepts Rowan’s apology, she seems troubled and quickly leaves. After June disappears, Rowan admits she may have been the last one to see her alive.
Katie Sise (Photo Credit: Jennifer Mullowney)
Katie Sise’s The Break, is told through the voices of the two women, really getting inside their minds, laying bare their hopes and fears. Rowan hopes she will be a good mother, but when she can’t nurse Lila properly, causing her to lose weight, fears she will harm the baby. June, who has landed a job in Harrison’s office as an assistant to another agent, Louisa, hopes she can escape her controlling roommate, Sean, but fears she doesn’t have what it takes to eventually become an actor.
Rowan was only five when she witnessed an assailant stabbing and killing her father. She’s never processed this violent act and now, the difficult birth may have triggered a full blown attack of PTSD. How will she be a wife to Gabe and mother to Lila if she can’t work through her traumas, past and present? Looking for answers, she takes Lila to meet her mother, hoping that the baby will create a moment of peace and clarity. But is Rowan prepared to hear what her mother has to say?
Meanwhile, June feels smothered by the men in her life. She agrees to share Sean’s apartment because she can’t afford her own place. His behavior, however, is worrisome. Although he doesn’t try anything sexual, he makes romantic dinners and turns up whenever June goes out, ostensibly to keep her safe. While June was initially attracted to Harrison, he’s older and at a different stage of life. When he begins to talk about marriage, she panics and tells him she wants to break up. He doesn’t take the news well.
Sise’s novel shines a light on the universal issues women face when trying to manage relationships and a career. Rowen’s success as a writer doesn’t transfer to her ability to mother her child. And while she loves her mother, she’s haunted by the death of her father. June had a difficult connection with her own parents. In New York, she’s on her own and makes herself an easy target for people like Sean and Harrison who offer protection, but demand what in return? How can she be an independent woman making her own way in a challenging career while the men around her don’t take her seriously?
The Break delivers many twists and turns and a shocking, though, satisfying ending.
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