‘Fight Night’ provides a comedic and youthful perspective on family

Miriam Toews’ novel calls for all women to keep fighting 

Image supplied by: Supplied by Jordan Tallis
This book shouldn’t be missed. 

Canadian writer Miriam Toews’ Fight Night was released last August to immediate acclaim, climbing the national bestseller list onto the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist.

Toews’s other bestsellers include All My Puny Sorrows, A Complicated Kindness, and Women Talking, through which she has established herself as a must-read Canadian fiction author. 

In Fight Night, Toews takes on the unique challenge of writing an adult-fiction novel from, ironically, the perspective of a child. The novel follows three generations of a lovable, tight-knit family as they find humour in the mundane. 

The story begins with nine-year-old Swiv’s suspension from school for fighting. Her grandmother, who has taken over her homeschooling, tells her to write a letter to her absent father. In the letter, Swiv describes their home life in Toronto and her travels to the United States, illustrating an intimate analysis of the characters who are the book’s true focus. 

Swiv is a firecracker of a girl who fights for what she believes in, no matter the cost. While she’s often quite outspoken, she’s also a worrier trying her best to care for her pregnant mother and ill grandmother. 

Swiv’s mother, Mooshie, is an actress and single mom who’s pregnant with a baby they’ve been lovingly referring to as “Gord”. Balancing her adult responsibilities—including managing stage directors, her rambunctious daughter, and the grandmother’s health complications—proves easier said than done while in her third trimester.

Mooshie’s snarky, sarcastic personality is well-developed throughout the book, trying to minimize the responsibilities and stress put on Swiv or ‘Gord.”

Swiv’s closest companion and grandmother, Elvira, is an exuberant and charismatic old woman obsessed with being naked. She has minimal concern for her wavering health, having already experienced plenty of death in her lifetime. She teaches Swiv her free-spirited mindset while they travel and cheer on the Toronto Raptors. 

Using feminist ideologies, Toews shares her perspective on the woman experience and applies it to her superb cast of characters. Fight Night is a glimpse into how women learn to fight and survive in a man’s world across all stages of life. 

Despite occasionally veering into the absurd, the family portrayed in Fight Night shows readers how they can persevere through hardships with love. Family is forever. 

Toews does a remarkable job conveying heavy themes like childbearing and child-rearing, fighting for freedom, and various stances on death in a light-hearted manner. 


Book review

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