Miriam Toews is the kind of writer that in a paragraph, she can make you laugh, cry, have the unbearable urge to call and hug your mom and grandmother, and have a full-blown existential crisis all at once. Fight Night is no exception. I listened to the audiobook, narrated primarily by Georgia Toews (the author’s daughter), and occasionally by the author herself, and I was an absolutely babbling mess by the end, in the best way possible.
Fight Night is set in contemporary Toronto, and told from the perspective of our feisty and deep thinking 9-year-old protagonist, Swiv. We begin the book learning Swiv has been expelled from school for you guessed it, fighting.
Swiv is a very self-aware, funny, and intelligent kid, and is at that stage where she is very embarrassed of her mom and grandma, but they are her entire world. Toews does an incredible job of telling this story through a child’s eyes that has grown up way too fast, but still has that child-like wonder and curiosity to learn and experience all the world has to offer.
Much of the book is told from the perspective of Swiv writing to her father as an assignment given to her grandmother during homeschooling, who has left nowhere to be found. She is told that he is out fighting the fascists, which as Swiv says is “not the same as necrotizing fasciitis.”
Swiv recounts the day-to-day, hilarious, tender, chaotic moments living with her wacky and philosophical grandmother Elvira, and her anti-fascist, fiery, actress of a mother who is very pregnant with the eagerly awaited “Gord”, and who somehow seems to embarrass Swiv constantly.
Swiv’s grandma homeschools her on the Raptors, bioluminescence, stories from her childhood with her 15+ siblings, about her mother, about what it means to live and die.
Fight Night is a book about families, how hard but necessary it can be to love them, and how fighting is necessary, but it is not always about aggression.
Swiv says later in the book during a wild trip to California, “Fighting means different things for different people. You will know for yourself what to fight. Grandma told me fighting can be making peace.” This book is about how love can look a lot like fighting, and love is really the only thing worth fighting for.