Andrea’s Pick of the Week: Fight Night by Miriam Toews

This extraordinary novel (which has nothing to do with mixed martial arts or the UFC) tells the story of three generations of women in Toronto. Swiv, the nine-year-old narrator, has a voice unlike any other I’ve read. Precocious and funny, parroting her relatives, she is writing a letter to her father, who has left her and her pregnant mother with Swiv’s grandma Elvira. Their activities include Elvira’s version of homeschooling (Swiv got suspended from school for fighting), viewing of Toronto Raptors games and episodes of Call the Midwife, and visiting friends – culminating in a trip to California to visit Elvira’s nephews. Despite the ordinary events, Swiv’s mom and grandma are the opposite of ordinary. Mooshie, her mother, is moody and quick to anger: “Mom goes full-on scorched earth,” says Swiv. Elvira has health and mobility issues, and says she has “five minutes left to live,” but approaches life with spontaneity and optimism. She strikes up conversations with everyone she meets and is beloved by all. Elvira teaches Swiv that her positive attitude is a choice, that love is always the answer, and that getting through life is a fight we all take on.

Miriam Toews (CBC Books)

Fight Night is quirky and charming. Elvira and Mooshie are hilariously inappropriate, usually embarrassing Swiv. Elvira is the real star of the book, irrepressible and filled with joy, while her life story is both tragic and zany. Mooshie is doing her best for her daughter and unborn child but has a lot of issues to work through. Swiv is a little sponge, soaking it all in and on her way to becoming a strong, feisty woman just like her mom and grandma.

The audiobook is beautifully read by the author and her daughter, Georgia, in a wonderful representation of the generations of women in the novel. Swiv’s voice stayed with me long after the story ended. Save a spot on the hold list for this unique, tender book (publication date: October 5).

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