“All the Broken Things is a dreamy, tender elegy to human failure and imperfection.”
-Miriam Toews, author of A Complicated Kindness and All My Puny Sorrows
“All the Broken Things enchanted me, opened my eyes, broke my heart, made me wonder, left me changed. Kuitenbrouwer has told a remarkable story that explores the tenuous thresholds between illusion and reality, myth and history, monstrosity and beauty. This is a truly magical and important book.”
-Jessica Grant, author of Come, Thou Tortoise
A dazzling novel about street fighting and freak shows, bear wrestling and the devastating by-products of war.
September, 1983. Fourteen-year-old Bo, a boat person from Vietnam, is newly arrived in Toronto with his mother and his 4-year-old sister, who was born severely disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange. Named Orange, she is the family secret.
Bo is kind to Orange, but he is a fighter, and his playground scraps draw the attention of a carny and bear trainer, who offers him work on the show and a bear cub to train. The carnival circuit opens up a new world for Bo, in which he is a champion, rather than the object of charity or ridicule. But it also leaves Orange vulnerable; once she is discovered by Bo’s bosses, pressure mounts on the family to place her in a traveling freak show.
When Bo wakes up one night to find the house empty, he sets off with his bear cub on an extraordinary journey through the city’s wilderness; in his search for Orange, Bo discovers a new way of seeing his sister, himself, and the world around them.
All the Broken Things is a spellbinding novel that tugs at the edges of realism, a page-turning story about the peculiarities that divide us and bring us together, and the human capacity for love and acceptance.
“All the Broken Things is a strange, beautiful novel about the fundamental human need to be seen and to be loved. Kuitenbrouwer’s Bear Boy, Bo, is an unforgettable creation–a true survivor who carries within him both the poison of war and its antidote. His creator is a fearless writer: she considers the full spectrum of human nature–from the monstrous to the wondrous–with a clear gaze and a capacious heart.”
-Alissa York, author of Effigy
“With Kuitenbrouwer’s clear and uncluttered prose, what is happening at a narrative level is always clear, but just how it is happening, psychologically, remains a mystery. The novel surprises throughout because the reader is never sure just which world they are inhabiting, just which set of rules it will obey. As a result, the novel as a whole feels tinged with magic, despite being resolutely – and frequently heartbreakingly – rooted in the “real.”All The Broken Things defies the purely rational and finds something much deeper, something out of time.”
–The Globe and Mail
“Kuitenbrouwer’s writing is powerful and evocative. All the Broken Things is deserving of wide readership and literary nominations. Although Kuitenbrouwer is also an accomplished short story writer, she has clearly come into her own with this longer narrative form. Bo and Bear deserve to become fixtures in the pantheon of Canadian characters who live in our imaginations.”
“It’s serious, melancholy, realist and quietly beautiful… Kuitenbrouwer’s writing is careful and skilled but never showy or manipulative. By illuminating one tiny corner of the world, Kuitenbrouwer opens an almost infinite space to think about responsibility, the meaning of family and the connectedness of things.”
“[A] compassionate page-turner…”
–Winnipeg Free Press
“Engrossing. . . . Kuitenbrouwer is a brave and thoughtful storyteller. Her novel deserves to be read.”
–The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)
“A touching story about love, loss and the bonds of all sorts of friendships.”
“This is a ‘carnival mirror’ take on the traditional coming-of-age story. . . . Writing from the perspective of a teen is tricky, but Bo’s voice is believable, compelling—and heartbreaking, as he learns that not all ‘monsters’ are found in the freak show at the Canadian National Exhibition and there are no happy endings.”
“If you haven’t yet heard from this new voice in Canadian fiction, get ready to get excited. . . . This will be a buzzy book for the Canadian LitFic set.”
“After the first 30 pages of All the Broken Things, I knew that I was reading something special. Moving, tragic, and full of impact, Kuitenbrouwer’s story of 14-year-old Bo’s struggle to heal his family and find acceptance was beautiful and heartbreaking . . . With plenty of topics to discuss, All the Broken Things would certainly make a great choice for book clubs! One thing is for sure, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with Bo and Bear, and will find yourself cheering them on until the very end.”
-Browsing Bookshelves (blog) (4.5 stars)
“Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is ringmaster and dancing bear, orchestrator and performer. All the Broken Things is enchanting and painfully real, truth dressed in a charade.”
-Buried in Print (blog)
Random House Canada, Spring 2014
Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads 2016
A 49th Shelf Most Anticipated Book of Spring 2014
A National Post Most Anticipated (Canadian) Book of 2014
Toronto Book Award Finalist 2015