Fight like a Girl by Sheena Kamal is a thriller that announces itself as a contemporary. Trisha is trying to win a belt in the ring, while also deal with her falling-apart family.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy and may or may not reflect the published edition.
Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to Toronto’s east-end townhouse Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind.
Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.
“The women of my family are both warriors and witches.”
This story genuinely took me by surprise with its fast pacing and dark story. I expected this to be a standard contemporary tale about grief and how we process it differently. However, I got a thriller, and I could not be more pleased. This book is dark, and bloody, and still raw in an emotional way. Kamal did a fantastic job of addressing several different issues, without ever making the plot lull.
“This is the part where you lose yourself to that hunger and even though they say you gotta give them the whole of what you got, your one-ten, it’s really about taking.”
I think this book did an interesting job of intertwining paranormal aspects with an illustrative purpose. It came across well and I enjoyed it. Additionally, it really shows how the cycle of abuse can continue and how easily the people around you will be aware of it, and not always know what to do or say. This isn’t necessarily a story in which everyone comes out having learned a lesson and become a better person – and honestly, I liked that in this book. It wasn’t that there was an acceptance of things occurring, it was that there was an understanding as to why. This was done well, but I’m speaking from an abuse survivor perspective.
“If he was a monster, what does that make me?”
Overall, this book took me by surprise. My only criticisms are that because it was so fast-paced, there were some overall plot parts that got confusing. It was hard to always know what was going on and when especially with the illustrative paranormal happening. I enjoyed it greatly and appreciate that things weren’t wrapped up with a shiny “everyone learned a lesson and is a better person now” bow.
“Trish…your dad just died. You’re going through something and I don’t understand it at all.”
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.