Excerpt from Fight Night by Miriam Toews, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Fight Night

by Miriam Toews

Fight Night by Miriam Toews X
Fight Night by Miriam Toews
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2021, 272 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2023, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Hon Khalaf
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Print Excerpt

1.

DEAR DAD,

How are you? I was expelled. Have you ever heard of Choice Time? That's my favourite class. I do Choice Time at the Take-Apart Centre, which is the place in our classroom where we put on safety goggles and take things apart. It's a bit dangerous. The first half of the class we take things apart and then Madame rings a bell, which means it's the second half of the class and we're supposed to put things back together. It doesn't make sense because it takes way longer to put things back together than take them apart. I tried to talk to Mom about it, and she said I should just start putting things back together sooner, before Madame rings the bell, but when I did that Madame told me I had to wait for the bell. I told Madame about the problem with time but she didn't like my tone, which was a lashing out tone, which I'm supposed to be working on. Mom is in her third trimester. She's cracking up. Gord is trapped inside her.

I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she said a cold IPA and a holiday. Grandma lives with us now. She has one foot in the grave. She's not afraid of anything. I asked her where you were and she said that's the sixty-four-thousand dollar question. She said she misses Grandpa. She said that by the time she gets to heaven he'll probably have left. Men, she said. They come and they—



Today marks the beginning of our neo-realist period, Grandma told me this morning. She plunked down fried potatoes on the table, and a bottle of ketchup. Fun and games! she said. She told me I have blue Nike swooshes under my eyes. She said I need to get more sleep. What's the problem, Swiv? Bad dreams?

Grandma's writing a letter to Gord, because that's the assignment I gave her and Mom at our Editorial Meeting yesterday. She gives me assignments, too. We are co-editors. Our family therapist was the one who told us to write letters, but Mom says we can't afford therapy anymore if all we're supposed to do is write to missing people. Grandma says she thinks it's useful. She says we can be like reporters and have our own news desk. She says letters start off as one thing and become another thing. But Mom mistrusts them, like photos. She hates photos. I don't want to be frozen in a moment!

Grandma says fragments are the only truth. Fragments of what? I asked her. Exactly! she said. She asked me what my dream was last night. I told her I dreamt that I had to write a goodbye letter using the words one and blue. Na oba! Grandma said. That'll be your assignment for today, Swivchen! She has a secret language. She didn't even ask me who the letter was for. Grandma skips over pertinent details because she's got five minutes left to live and doesn't want to waste it on the small picture. What if I had a dream that I was naked and locked out of my house? I asked her. Would that be my assignment? Na jungas! she said. It's happened to me many times! Grandma loves to talk about the body. She loves everything about the body, every nook and cranny. How can it have happened to you many times? I asked her. That's life! she said. You gotta love yourself, regardless. That's not life, I said. Being naked and locked out of your house all the time? Fun and games! she said. She was counting out her pills and laughing.

After that we had Math Class. Pencils ready! she yelled. If you've got a two thousand-piece puzzle of an Amish farm and you manage to add three pieces to the puzzle per day, how many more days will you need to stay alive to get it done? Math Class was interrupted by the doorbell. Ball Game! yelled Grandma. Who could it be? The doorbell ringer is set to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," which Grandma forces me to sing with her during the seventh-inning stretch even if we're just watching the game in our living room. She makes me stand up for the anthem at the beginning, too. Mom doesn't stand up for the anthem because Canada is a lie and a crime scene. It was Jay Gatsby. He wants to tear our house down.

Excerpted from Fight Night by Miriam Toews. Copyright © 2021 by Miriam Toews. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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