SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE 2021 ATWOOD GIBSON WRITERS’ TRUST FICTION PRIZE
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Globe and Mail ● CBC ● USA Today ● NPR
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
An Amazon Editors’ Pick
An Indie Next Pick
An Apple Book of the Month
One of Indigo’s “Top 10 Best Canadian Fiction Books of 2021”
The beloved author of bestsellers Women Talking, All My Puny Sorrows, and A Complicated Kindness returns with a funny, smart, headlong rush of a novel full of wit, flawless writing, and a tribute to perseverance and love in an unusual family.
Fight Night is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv's absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to "Gord," her unborn grandchild (and Swiv's soon-to-be brother or sister). "You’re a small thing," Grandma writes to Gord, "and you must learn to fight."
As Swiv records her thoughts and observations, Fight Night unspools the pain, love, laughter, and above all, will to live a good life across three generations of women in a close-knit family. But it is Swiv’s exasperating, wise and irrepressible Grandma who is at the heart of this novel: someone who knows intimately what it costs to survive in this world, yet has found a way—painfully, joyously, ferociously—to love and fight to the end, on her own terms.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When you’re young, every day can be a grand new adventure. Miriam Toews expertly captures that sense of excitement in this tale of three generations of women. Preteen Swiv lives in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is an actress, and her feisty grandmother. After Swiv’s expelled from school, Grandma gives her an assignment—write a letter to the father who abandoned them. Meanwhile, Grandma is writing her own letter to her unborn grandchild. Toews clearly is having an absolute blast writing in the voice of a precocious nine-year-old—Swiv’s stream-of-consciousness retelling of everything she sees is witty and endearing. But it’s Grandma who commands centre stage, with her resilient, positive attitude and lust for life. When the tears come—and they will—they are well earned. Throwing verbal jabs, Toews has created a Fight Night that you’ll want a front-row ticket for.
Toews (Women Talking) continues her consideration of the theme of women's self-determination in this indelible and darkly hilarious portrait of an unforgettable Toronto family. Framed as a long letter to eight-year-old Swiv's absent father in her brisk, matter-of-fact voice, it also features letters to her mother and others. After being expelled from school for fighting, she grows closer to her larger-than-life grandmother, Elvira, who "has one foot in the grave" and dives into homeschooling with gusto, convening so-called editorial meetings and devising assignments to write letters to one another. Meanwhile, Swiv's mother, Mooshie, a pregnant actor, is prone to dramatic and sometimes violent mood swings, leading Swiv to fear Mooshie might succumb to the same mental illness that led to her aunt's and grandfather's suicides. The harder-edged Mooshie, who wants a "cold IPA and a holiday" for her birthday, and the exuberant Elvira, are both brash and fearless, traits that alternately embarrass and inspire Swiv. Through these women's letters and stories, readers glimpse histories of grief, loss, and abuse, making Grandma's assertion that "joy... is resistance" even more powerful. The moving conclusion, which has its roots in a plan for Swiv and Elvira to visit family members in California, shuns sentimentality and celebrates survival. Fierce and funny, this gives undeniable testimony to the life force of family. It's a knockout.
Wonderful! Hilarious and heartbreaking.