The Fighter

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Every time I pick up one of Michael Farris Smith’s novels, I am amazed at his ability to craft characters and story. The amount of depth and emotion and complexity he is able to weave into his stories is difficult to find in other authors. Having read Blackwood first, I was eager to delve into The Fighter and get some more information about the child that the twisted Boucher family left behind.

As with all of Michael Farris Smith’s works, The Fighter is a character study. It is an unflinching look at someone whose life is completely and uncontrollably off the rails. Jack Boucher didn’t have much of a chance, between his parents and being bounced around from place to place during his childhood. Fate eventually landed him in the arms of someone that truly cared for him – Maryann. Jack’s life has been a series of missteps and bad choices, but he never loses sight of wanting to be a better person and turn his life around. As with many of Michael Farris Smith’s characters, Jack is someone that has been completely beaten into the ground by the harsh reality of the world.

I really found Maryann and Annette to be slightly more interesting than Jack himself. Maryann offered a sad, heart-breaking look inside of a situation that too many people struggle with. I like how the reader is given pieces of information, glimpses into Maryann’s life, and then is broadsided by the emotional collision of the letters that Jack discovers towards the end of the novel. Annette’s philosophy was also very intriguing to me, her idea of allowing the winds of life and chance to carry her along, going with the flow and arriving wherever she was deposited by her destiny. I also like how Michael Farris Smith tied Annette and Jack together, in that their history was written on their bodies in different but similar ways.

The plot of The Fighter is fairly straightforward, but is engaging nonetheless. I was honestly taken by surprise when it was revealed that Annette was Jack’s daughter, and was very impressed by the way that information was handled and parceled out to the reader through various clues. The way that Michael Farris Smith tied all of the events together, and brought the characters together, was very well done. I say it in all of my reviews, but he has such a poetic and beautiful way of writing that is both simplistic and elaborate. Michael Farris Smith truly has a literary voice of his own.

The Fighter is a harsh tale of belligerent violence, loneliness, failure and redemption. There is very little fault to be found here and, as ever, Michael Farris Smith delivers on the concepts and messages that he set out to deliver.

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