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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Reader's Diary #2251- Miriam Toews: Fight Night

I typically have a hard time with Miriam Toews' characters. As a rule, they're quirky. Sometimes this is too much of a distraction for me; I find the quirk forced, too much, too unbelievable. To some extent this held true for Fight Night as well. The grandmother character in particular was over the top.

I should note that this isn't just a case of me not relating to a character. It's acknowledged in the book that the central family is strange by society standards. 

Still, I liked the characters even with their quirks. Maybe not believable, but they were fun and loveable. As was the book itself. Told from the perspective of a precocious nine year old girl, Toews captured this voice superbly. (Fight Night is up against Omar El Akkad's What Strange Paradise for a Giller prize this year which also follows a child protagonist and doesn't capture a child's voice anywhere near as well.) Her interpretations of and confusion with the adult world is often hysterical.

If it was just a funny book, that would be great. But it's also full of heart. Similar to her All My Puny Sorrows, it deals with suicide, depression, and familial bonds. It's also heavy on themes of aging. The humour helps cut it of course, but it's also I would say a hopeful book. 

Besides overdone quirk, another issue I had was with one particular chapter which took the voice of the grandmother instead of the granddaughter. That in itself wasn't the issue, but it was used to plug some gaps in the history of the characters and plot and felt like those scenes in movies when a villain gives a long winded explanation of their plan, providing (albeit important) details that the writers couldn't work in otherwise but now feels awkward.

Overall though, I enjoyed the book and would not be disappointed if it took home the Giller prize. 


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