Fight Night

Bloomsbury. Oct. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781635578171. $24. F
Using details from her own family history, Toews (Women Talking) recounts a few weeks in the life of three generations of strong, complicated women. The novel is presented as an unsent letter from nine-year-old Swiv to her absent father. Suspended from school for fighting, Swiv helps care for her irrepressible but health-addled grandmother Elvira, while her mother, a pregnant actress, struggles with mental illness. The family history includes membership in a repressive religious community and several instances of suicide, so generational trauma is evident in the way each character approaches the world. When Swiv accompanies Elvira on a trip to California to visit two of her nephews (probably for the last time), the story becomes a comic, picaresque, and ultimately bittersweet adventure.
VERDICT 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.
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