Publisher: Faber and Faber
Release Date: March 8th, 2022
Rating: 5/5 Stars
I haven’t read anything by Toews until Fight Night, but this book has definitely made me more interested in reading more from her.
Swiv, nine-years-old and living in Toronto, is tasked by her grandmother to write to Swiv’s absent father. In Swiv’s voice, we learn of her grandmother and mother, and the family as a whole, a family made up of fighters. We travel to California and back, all in an unforgettable voice. Writing a child’s point of view is hard. Writing a child’s point of view for an adult audience is an incredibly difficult task, and I always admire the authors who can do it well. Toews does is very well indeed.
We get everything filtered through Swiv, causing some absolutely brilliant laugh out loud moments. But there’s also times you want to wrap her up and hug her so tight, where you can’t help but feel deeply for her and her family. She speaks not just to her absent father, but also to her unborn sibling, Gord, who she feels bad for leaving alone with their mother.
Swiv’s voice does come through as a little mature for her age at times, but as the book went on it felt more like Swiv is mature, in a way some kids are who go through a lot at such a young age. Although her grandmother takes over her schooling, it becomes clear Swiv acts more as a carer to her gran, ensuring she takes her pills, picking up after her, running errands with her.
For me, some of Swiv’s attitude spoke to anxiety, filtered through a child’s eyes who doesn’t necessarily have the words to describe a panic attack, or who is constantly worried about the next bad thing to happen, but even with these there’s a funny tone to it, as she looks at the harmless things adults are doing and comes to the worst conclusion. There are times, too, where the adults talk of sex or make innuendos around her, making Swiv constantly awkward and embarrassed. It’s really endearing, throughout, to see Swiv’s reaction to the situations she’s in, and to feel how embarrassed she is by her family, while also coming to love her grandmother and mother as much as we love Swiv.
I repeat: I absolutely loved Swiv. She’s endearing, and wonderful, and despite the things getting thrown at her, she takes everything in stride. Her mother and grandmother are eccentric, embarrassing, and fierce, raising a girl to be strong-willed and to fight and be true to herself, the most important lesson her grandmother teaches her. This book is heart warming and sweet and at times, yes, sad, and it all works together wonderfully.
Thank you to Faber and Faber for providing me a copy of this book via NetGalley.