Title: The Breaking
Author: Irma Gold
Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing
Published: March 2021
Irma Gold’s debut novel is a confronting and emotionally gripping work of literature. The Breaking follows Hannah Bird, a young woman who becomes interested in elephant sanctuaries after her trip to Thailand gets hijacked by the audacious Australian expat, Deven. As the two women delve deeper into the world of elephant tourism, they come face-to-face with the complexities of human desires and the exploitation of animals in the tourism industry.
Based on the blurb, I expected there to be a large focus on the interwoven cultural, political, and environmental complexities of animal exploitation within Thailand’s tourism industry. While The Breaking highlights several significant problems and difficulties activists face in initiating change (such as educating families in more ethical practices to treat elephants), I found these conversations to be more of a sub-plot to the romance plotline. Hannah is very much intrigued by Deven’s fiery personality and strong sense for justice, which often led the story to revolve around these developing feelings as opposed to engaging more with the elephants and the people of the sanctuary. While I did not expect the strong romance storyline, Irma Gold expertly portrays the uncertainty of young love and the innate desire of wanting to belong.
The Breaking is a love story. While Hannah is willing to follow Deven across Thailand, Gold’s love and passion for elephants led her to dedicate her time volunteering at sanctuaries. This experience is prevalent throughout the story, and has informed her writing in meaningful and insightful ways. Each scene at the sanctuaries feels intimate and personal, not only forging a relationship between the rescued elephants and the characters, but with the readers as well. These interactions give the story a lot of charm; Gold’s care in educating readers and capturing the rehabilitation efforts of these sanctuaries is inspiring. But when it comes to the cruelty elephants endure for the sake of tourism, her writing becomes unsettlingly vivid in its simplicity. The story encourages action and thought, urging readers to refuse indifference and face these atrocities for what they are.
The Breaking can be difficult to read at times; much like the fiery character Deven, the story is loud, in-your-face, and demands action in the face of injustice. But while the book’s explicit nature can create an unsettling reading experience, the author’s passion and insight for elephants is sure to encourage readers to take a more ethical approach to tourism. For readers who consider themselves a romantic, a travel-bug, or even an activist for animal rights, this book is one to add to your TBR list!