cover image The Fighter

The Fighter

Michael Farris Smith. Little, Brown, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-43234-4

The ferocious fourth novel by the author of Desperation Road confines itself to a few fraught days in the life of a cage fighter on his last legs. Forty-something Jack Boucher, raised by a foster mother in the Mississippi Delta, has reached a crisis point. Subsisting on pain pills washed down with Wild Turkey, he has lost large chunks of his memory, but he knows that his beloved foster mom is dying in a nursing home and that he is on the edge of being killed by loan shark Big Momma Sweet if he doesn't either hand over some cash or take on one last, potentially fatal fight. After a car crash on a back road, Jack’s destiny becomes entwined with that of a troupe of outlaw carnies, among them the thoughtful, tattooed Annette, who can’t “decide if she was putting together pieces to some fateful puzzle or if she had simply fallen into this man’s mess because of her own need.” Vivid descriptions never slow the pace of the plot, which moves swiftly toward an inevitable but still surprising climax. As violent as it is poetic, Smith’s novel draws the reader in from beginning to end. (Mar.)