Book Review: The Break by Katie Sise

Can she trust the people she loves? Can she trust herself? A new mother is pushed to the edge in Katie Sise's provocative thriller The Break. Read on for Michelle Carpenter's Review!

When you experience a trauma and suddenly your hold on reality starts to slip, who would you trust? Can you rely on your husband, your therapist, your friends – even if all of them seem slightly frightened of you? A theme not often covered in the world of crime fiction, The Break by Katie Sise delves into the topic of motherhood, mixing post-partum trauma with the shock of a missing persons case to create a novel where the narrator might not be the most reliable. 

As the new mother of a beautiful baby girl, Rowan O’Sullivan can’t help but feel everyone around her is acting oddly. The birth of her daughter was a difficult and traumatic one that left Rowan feeling like a darkness is continually sweeping over her. While her husband, Gabe, and those close to her know she is struggling, she is sensing something more. Whether it’s hushed conversations, treating her with fragility, or altogether avoidance – everyone in her life seems to be circling some truth that is unknown to Rowan. She begins to question if all these people are truly trying to help her heal, or if something else is really going on.

I fell into a dark spell when we got engaged. I’ve had them before when I was little, and as a teenager, and in college, too. They’re imprinted onto my life like ink stains, and sometimes Gabe uses them against me when he needs to. Once he said he worried about having children with me, because what if I had our baby and then fell again into that deep pit of despair and couldn’t climb back out?

All of this comes to a head when June, Rowan and Gabe’s babysitter, goes missing. Rowan and June had an altercation, resulting in June taking a leave of absence from her role. However, instead of boarding a train home as she intended, June simply vanishes. Rowan’s instability targets her as the prime suspect, and she becomes entirely devoted to finding out what has happened to June. In doing so, dark truths are brought to light. 

While June’s missing persons case intermingled with Rowan’s fragile state is the focus of the novel, Sise swaps narrators throughout. In order to understand how June disappeared, she first takes the reader on the journey of how June came to be involved in the same world as Rowan and Gabe. With June narrating, she paints a picture of her motivation to thrive in New York City as an actress, and what she is willing to do to get there. Shortly after arriving in NYC, June lands a job at a talent agency and becomes instantly enamored in the world of prestigious actors and screenwriters. 

I keep replaying it in my mind – it’s like a daydream that actually came true, the way she seemed almost proud walking me down WTA’s hallway to fill out some paperwork. This is June, my new assistant, she said to Kai, who sat behind the front desk and looked genuinely happy to hear the news. What if this turns out to be a great thing for me? What if these people are kind, the sort of people who want to see you do well? What if this is the place that starts everything for me?

This job does start everything for June, but it also sets in motion the events that will lead her to famous screenwriter, Gabe O’Sullivan and his wife, the award-winning novelist Rowan O’Sullivan. These same events ultimately lead to her disappearance, and the reader begins to receive the impression that everyone in June’s life might have had a motive for wanting her gone. 

Weaving together Rowan’s delicate psychological state, the suspense of June’s missing persons case and the tensions that brought all the characters to this point, Sise has shaped a page-turning narrative. The Break is an altogether captivating thriller, keeping the reader on their toes from the first page through to the last.

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