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Summary and book reviews of Fight Night by Miriam Toews

Fight Night

by Miriam Toews

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Hon Khalaf
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the bestselling author of Women Talking and All My Puny Sorrows, a compassionate, darkly humorous, and deeply wise new novel about three generations of women.

"You're a small thing," Grandma writes, "and you must learn to fight." Swiv's Grandma, Elvira, has been fighting all her life. From her upbringing in a strict religious community, she has fought those who wanted to take away her joy, her independence, and her spirit. She has fought to make peace with her loved ones when they have chosen to leave her. And now, even as her health fails, Grandma is fighting for her family: for her daughter, partnerless and in the third term of a pregnancy; and for her granddaughter Swiv, a spirited nine-year-old who has been suspended from school. Cramped together in their Toronto home, on the precipice of extraordinary change, Grandma and Swiv undertake a vital new project, setting out to explain their lives in letters they will never send.

Alternating between the exuberant, precocious voice of young Swiv and her irrepressible, tenacious Grandma, Fight Night is a love letter to mothers and grandmothers, and to all the women who are still fighting-painfully, ferociously-for a way to live on their own terms.

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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Spanning three generations and two continents, one might not immediately recognize the monumental vastness of the themes and truths that Toews is exploring within Fight Night. This is because we are gleefully and gently guided through the events that unfold by Swiv as she tries to make sense of the world. The main thing that stands out is how incredibly funny this novel is — and that's the only way that Toews can draw out such serious and heartbreaking truths about life, by soothing us with humor and the small observations that bring joy and connection...continued

Full Review Members Only (554 words).

(Reviewed by Jennifer Hon Khalaf).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Miriam Toews gets so close to the fire that the pages of her books may as well be singed...She is the kind of writer for whom the act of writing is clearly more important than being read. Her books are an excavation, an attempt to give shape to her own pain, like a moth who longs to catch the candlelight in its wings...Toews is a master of dialogue...In Fight Night, the women understand that it means to survive.

The New Yorker
Miriam Toews is wickedly funny and fearlessly honest… She is an artist of escape; she always finds a way for her characters, trapped by circumstance, to liberate themselves.

Lit Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2021"
A relentlessly entertaining novel about three generations of women living under one roof, most of it rambunctiously reported by Swiv. While you will find Toews' trademark themes of survival and community here, this novel is an absurdist comedy that will make you giggle into your soup.

NPR
Miriam Toews [has] explained that she thinks of all of her novels as 'one big book'...[her] latest, Fight Night, brings the thread of her 'one big book' back home and broadens what it means to stay and fight...as Elvira says, 'To be alive means full body contact with the absurd. Still, we can be happy.' This is an apt mission statement for Toews's body of work. Fight Night makes an ardent, hilarious, and moving addition.

BookPage (starred review)
Brilliant...Toews gives Swiv a voice that is sophisticated, childlike and utterly believable...the wonder of Fight Night is that it's a warmhearted and inventive portrait of women who have learned to fight against adversity.

Library Journal
Swiv's narrative voice, by turns angry, sardonic, and full of both love and exasperation for her mother and grandmother, provides much of the charm and appeal of the novel. Elvira is a force of nature, charming everyone around her with her zest for life. Despite the dark elements in the story, the humor and love between the characters shine through. Recommended.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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...Funny and sad and exquisitely tender.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Toews continues her consideration of the theme of women's self-determination in this indelible and darkly hilarious portrait of an unforgettable Toronto family...Fierce and funny, this gives undeniable testimony to the life force of family. It's a knockout.

Author Blurb Christina Baker Kline, bestselling author of The Exiles and Orphan Train
ight Night is a headlong rush of a novel narrated by a precocious nine-year-old girl who is doing everything she can to keep her troubled mother from falling apart and her irrepressible grandmother alive. Tender, heart-wrenching, darkly funny, and ultimately joyful, this novel pulses with life.

Author Blurb R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
In Fight Night as in her previous books, Miriam Toews is a genius. Her gigantic mind and heart are singular; her sentence-making powers, extraordinary. Living in a time when Toews is writing is a reason to rejoice.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors logo featuring claws holding a basketballIn Fight Night, grandmother and granddaughter Elvira and Swiv are both big fans of the Toronto Raptors, a Canadian basketball team that competes in the NBA's Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. The novel has a few autobiographical elements, as author Miriam Toews lives in Toronto in a household that includes her own mother (whose name is Elvira), her daughter, and two of her grandchildren. Throughout the novel, the Raptors are referred to frequently in passing and play in the background on the television. The team was established in 1995 during the NBA's expansion into Canada, along with the Vancouver Grizzlies. A nationwide vote gave rise to the team's name, chosen due to the popularity of the movie Jurassic Park at the time. Upon the ...

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