Jack Boucher, a former bare-knuckle fighter, has nothing more to give. In a single twisted night, he is derailed. Hijacked by a sleazy gambler out to settle a score, Jack loses the money that will clear his debt with the queen of Delta vice, Big Momma Sweet.
As Jack’s foster mother slowly dies, her mind eroded by dementia, so Jack finds his mind is failing too. Years of bare-knuckle fighting have taken their toll and recurrent concussion leaves him relying on painkillers and a notebook of names, separating friend from foe, to keep himself alive. Yet a saviour comes in the form of Annette, a tattooed carnival worker and free spirit, who guides him towards some sort of salvation. But the road to redemption is filled with danger and Jack is forced to step into the fighting pit one last time, with the stakes no less than life or death.
I was extremely intrigued when approached by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours to review The Fighter. It sounded harsh and violent and not necessarily my cup of tea but what I hadn't bargained on was its depth and beauty and the power it had to move me. The writing here is simply sublime. If you haven't heard of Michael Farris Smith, you should have.
The story centres on Jack Boucher, who finds his back against the wall and nowhere to turn. A former fighter he finds himself in the position of owing money to people he shouldn't. He resorts to a return to his former fighting days in order to pay off his debts.
This is a story that is all about the characters and the author manages to take us on their journeys in a way that was compelling. There is Jack that grew up in care and Maryann his foster mother. Her health is now failing, she has dementia. Then there is the extremely individual Annette.
The Fighter is a story of hope and desperation and about settling scores and debts. It is everything between brutal and relentless to hopeful and beautiful. The writing is lyrical and remains warm throughout.
Sublime writing with raw emotion pouring off of every page. This is a truimph, and a metaphor that when your back is against the ropes you always have to hope and not give up but to fight.
Possibly the best I have read this year.
About the Author:
MICHAEL FARRIS SMITH is a native Mississippian who has spent time living abroad in France and Switzerland. He is the recipient of the 2014 Mississippi Author Award and has been awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, and the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared with The New York Times, Catfish Alley, Deep South Magazine, and more. He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters.
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