Fight Night
by Toews, Miriam

Given a writing assignment after being expelled, Swiv discovers that her mother and grandmother have been fighting their whole lives for joy and independence.

Miriam Toews is the author of seven previous bestselling novels, Women Talking, All My Puny Sorrows, Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of nonfiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.

In this uproarious, tender, and wise epistolary novel set in Canada and California, nine-year-old Swiv describes the chaos and conundrums of day-to-day life with her moody, pregnant mom and rambunctious-but-always-at-death's-door grandmother Elvira. Expelled from school for fighting, Swiv spends her time taking care of, and being embarrassed by, Elvira, who homeschools her. She worries about her mom, an actress, and protecting her unborn sibling, Gord. Swiv's understanding of Elvira's past is a mythologized story that matches her grandmother's outsized, fighting spirit. The hilarious situations in which she and Elvira find themselves are testimonials to embracing life, and Swiv's youthful pronouncements on life, death, and love hit the mark. Men are mostly absent, including Swiv's father, and sometimes malevolent. Toews' (Women Talking, 2019) multigenerational family story of this trio of women barrels to a slapstick, touching, cycle-of-life ending. Elvira espouses an uplifting legacy: the wisdom that we're born with a light inside of us; that our job is to not let it go out; and that our ancestors are ahead of us to light the path. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

The author of Women Talking (2018) lets a 9-year-old girl have her say. The first thing to know about this novel is that it's narrated by a child writing to her father, who seems to have abandoned her and her pregnant mother. The novel-as-long-letter can often feel gimmicky, it's difficult to craft a child's voice that is both authentic and compelling, and it would not be unreasonable for readers to be wary of a book that attempts both. Readers familiar with Toews, however, may guess-correctly-that she's quite capable of meeting the formal challenges she's set for herself. "Mom is afraid of losing her mind and killing herself but Grandma says she's nowhere near losing her mind and killing herself." This is Swiv talking. "Grandpa and Auntie Momo killed themselves, and your dad is somewhere else, those things are true." This is Swiv's Grandma talking. "But we're here! We are all here now." This exchange captures the central concerns of this charming, open-hearted book. Swiv's mother-an actor-is a bundle of angst, rage, and stifled ambition. Swiv's grandmother, on the other hand, is the embodiment of joie de vivre, and it's Grandma with whom Swiv spends most of her time, filling the roles of caretaker and (sometimes reluctant) accomplice. Grandma is the type of person who befriends everyone she meets and who finds the joy in even the most ridiculous and-to her granddaughter-mortifying experiences. As the novel progresses, we discover that this ebullience isn't the natural product of a happy life but, rather, the result of a conscious decision to endure terrible loss without becoming hard. We also come to learn why Swiv's mom is so brittle. And we understand that Grandma, in all her glorious ridiculousness, is showing Swiv that the only way to survive is to love. Funny and sad and exquisitely tender. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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