Fight Night by Miriam Toews
This voice! Fight Night is told by Swiv, a blunt and feisty narrator who charms from the opening page. We’re not told exactly how old she is- perhaps about nine? But she is one-of-a-kind.
Swiv has been expelled from school (again) and accompanies her grandmother on a trip to visit distant family. She is nervous and worried about the toll on Grandma’s declining health. This is especially taxing as Swiv has cast herself as the family protector, also including in her care her single mother and her unborn sibling, Gord.
The liveliness of Swiv’s storytelling is the true star here. Some words are part of a made-up language between her and her grandmother, some are quotes from their favourite TV shows Call the Midwife or Midsomer Murders. They give other characters private nicknames like Jay Gatsby, a developer who wants to ‘tear down our house and build an underground doomsday-proof luxury vault.’
The heart of this story is the gorgeous relationship between Grandma and Swiv, as well as the resilience within this family of women. From the author of All My Puny Sorrows, this is a funny, chaotic and beautiful treat.
Time and Tide in Sarajevo by Bronwyn Birdsall
Bronwyn Birdsall spent years living in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina as a teacher and her experiences inspired this compelling and heartfelt story of Evelyn, an Australian English teacher with a ‘lucky’ American passport.
A teenage boy has been murdered and there is unrest in the city. The echoes and repercussions of the 1990s loom large. The locals struggle - as does Evelyn - with what opportunities her English exam may offer these academically gifted high schoolers. They and their parents are torn between wanting a way out and wanting to repair the country they love.
This is a simple tale set within a complex environment. There’s corruption, an accusation, a murder and protest. In many ways, this literary novel reads like a thriller - keeping us on the edge of our seat - as we hold out hope for Evelyn’s young students, whose futures could be so bright. Exquisitely written and perfectly paced, Time and Tide in Sarajevo asks: how do we find hope in a world that feels beyond repair?
All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews
When Lauren Groff calls a novel "extraordinary...spiny and delicate, scathingly funny and wildly moving", we listen! And when Raven Leilani corroborates the sentiment by describing the prose as "undeniable and hyper attuned to the terrible privacy of the mind", we politely put down whatever we're reading and purchase the book immediately. And you should too - this is one of the best books we've read this year!
All This Could Be Different introduces us to Sneha - a recent college graduate freshly arrived in Milwaukee, she occupies her days with rote, stressful work as a young consultant for a battery production corporation. She is, as her boss reminds her, a "contractor, no benefits." But Sneha is supposedly one of the fortunate ones, this is America in recession and we see how this plays out for a young immigrant building a life for herself in the 'land of opportunity'.
A witty, tender and profound saga of queer love, work, friendship, healing and precarity in twenty-first century America.