Books·Giller Prize 2021

Fight Night

A novel by Miriam Toews.

Miriam Toews

Fight Night is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv's absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to "Gord," her unborn grandchild (and Swiv's soon-to-be brother or sister). "You're a small thing," Grandma writes to Gord, "and you must learn to fight."

As Swiv records her thoughts and observations, Fight Night unspools the pain, love, laughter, and above all, will to live a good life across three generations of women in a close-knit family. But it is Swiv's exasperating, wise and irrepressible Grandma who is at the heart of this novel: someone who knows intimately what it costs to survive in this world, yet has found a way—painfully, joyously, ferociously — to love and fight to the end, on her own terms. (From Knopf Canada)

Fight Night is on the shortlist for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2021 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Scotiabank Giller Prize jury citation: "Miriam Toews' compellingly crafted Fight Night is a testament to her astounding grasp of narrative voice. The emotional range exemplified on every page solidifies Toews as one of our most endearing, compassionate and prolific storytellers. Her young protagonist, nine year old Swiv, is expertly rendered with exacting grit and enviable humour. To read this examination of girlhood, family and mental wellness, is to become wholly enamoured with a cast of characters consistently demonstrating the power of exuberance and resiliency of love."

The emotional range exemplified on every page solidifies Toews as one of our most endearing, compassionate and prolific storytellers.- 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize jury

Miriam Toews is the author of A Complicated Kindness, which received the Governor General's Literary Award for English-language fiction in 2004 and won Canada Reads in 2006, championed by John K. Samson, and The Flying Troutmans. Her novel All My Puny Sorrows won the 2014 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. In 2000, she wrote a memoir called Swing LowHer 2018 novel, Women Talkingwas a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction

Why Miriam Toews wrote Fight Night

The fight is the fight to live, the fight for happiness, the fight for connection with human beings, the fight against loneliness, against alienation.

The fight is the fight to live, the fight for happiness, the fight for connection with human beings, the fight against loneliness, against alienation.- Miriam Toews

There are the other fights. We can fight authority and climate change and fascism and the Taliban. But in this case, the fight is to be able to go into your heart and to love and to experience joy, to spread joy. And that's not always easy.

Read more in her interview with The Next Chapter.

From the book

Dear Dad,

How are you? I was expelled. Have you ever heard of Choice Time? That's my favourite class.

I do Choice Time at the Take-Apart Centre, which is the place in our classroom where we put on safety goggles and take things apart. It's a bit dangerous. The first half of the class we take things apart and then Madame rings a bell, which means it's the second half of the class and we're supposed to put things back together.

It doesn't make sense because it takes way longer to put things back together than take them apart. I tried to talk to Mom about it, and she said I should just start putting things back together sooner, before Madame rings the bell, but when I did that Madame told me I had to wait for the bell.

I told Madame about the problem with time but she didn't like my tone, which was a lashing out tone, which I'm supposed to be working on. Mom is in her third trimester. She's cracking up. Gord is trapped inside her. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she said a cold IPA and a holiday. Grandma lives with us now. She has one foot in the grave. She's not afraid of anything.

​​​​​I asked her where you were and she said that's the 64,000-thousand dollar question. She said she misses Grandpa. She said that by the time she gets to heaven he'll probably have left.

Men, she said. They come and they go. 


Excerpted from Fight Night by Miriam Toews ©2021. Published by Knopf Canada.

Interviews with Miriam Toews

Bestselling Canadian author Miriam Toews sat down with Tom Power to discuss her highly anticipated new novel, Fight Night, and what it says about family, resiliency and the fight for mental health. Fight Night is out now. 34:02

Author Miriam Toews

11 years ago
4:55
Canadian author Miriam Toews talks about truth-telling in her new novel Irma Voth 4:55

Giller Prize: Music that inspires Miriam Toews

7 years ago
1:18
Giller Prize: Music that inspires Miriam Toews 1:18

Other books by Miriam Toews

The 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist

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