In the latest from the author of Women Talking, Swiv's Grandma, Elvira, has been fighting all her life with those who want to take away her joy, her independence and her spirit. 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.
In the weeks since I finished [Fight Night], I have not been able to stop thinking about it ... It’s impossible as you read this novel to not compare the action and characters with Toews’ real world, and yet at the same time, you become so sucked into this fictional world that you forget everything else ... Fight Night’s Elvira is also an incredible, relentless resilient life force. Readers will fall in love with her this summer – and long afterward.
In Elvira...Swiv has a soothing vision of adulthood ... Her irrepressibility is remarkable for all that she has lived through, but the hijinks of an effervescent senior, rendered in the voice of a wisecracking child, can verge on the too-cute ... it’s Elvira’s determination to crawl back from the abyss that Toews stresses most: 'She had to ask herself how she would survive grief and her answer was Who can I help?' However admirable a creed, this hints at a cloying tendency in Fight Night that threatens to undermine the novel’s subtler explorations of family dysfunction ... Fight Night is littered with imperatives ... Occasionally they are electrifying ... But the novel’s many lines about fighting more often have the ring of a truism, or a self-help affirmation taped to a bathroom mirror ... The Fresno scenes are some of Fight Night’s strongest, so it’s a shame the trip proves to be a short-lived diversion ... nearly all tenderness. The uncompromising forces that typically counterbalance Toews’s softness—melancholia, the violence of men’s wills—are relegated to the background or too easily surmounted. Still, there’s great pathos in watching a writer as gifted as Toews turn the same losses over and over as if looking for some way to redeem them on the page, knowing all the while that there isn’t.
Toews continues her consideration of the theme of women’s self-determination in this indelible and darkly hilarious portrait of an unforgettable Toronto family ... Through these women’s letters and stories, readers glimpse histories of grief, loss, and abuse, making Grandma’s assertion that 'joy... is resistance' even more powerful. The moving conclusion, which has its roots in a plan for Swiv and Elvira to visit family members in California, shuns sentimentality and celebrates survival. Fierce and funny, this gives undeniable testimony to the life force of family. It’s a knockout.