"The story is told in the alternating voices of Helen, Karen, Lily, and Perley, and Ffitch navigates their personalities beautifully, creating complex, brilliantly realized characters. As the stakes rise, for both the family and the preservation of the region, the novel skewers stereotypes and offers only a messy, real depiction of people who fully embody the imperative of the novel’s title. This is a stellar novel."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Rendered, through its multiple first-person perspectives, with wit and nuance . . . A cleareyed, largehearted take on the social protest novel."
“Madeline ffitch is unafraid of a good fight. Her first novel is a rousing celebration of conflict, in particular the conflict that comes with being a family: unspoken tensions, philosophical disagreements, painful words, messy brawls. Stay and Fight makes the powerful argument that fighting within a family is necessary, formative; it’s the practice that prepares us to fight for our families when the time comes. Hers is the fiercest, wisest book about parenting that I’ve read in a very long time.”
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Ms. Hempel Chronicles
“If Carolyn Chute and Larry Brown and Carson McCullers had a love child, it might be Madeline ffitch’s brutal and brilliant debut novel, Stay and Fight. What a wise, funny, and shining story, born into the world just in time to teach us about friendship, hardship, self-reliance, and black rat snakes.”
Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River
“Madeline ffitch is one of the few real writers on the planet. And Stay and Fight is a real novel. ffitch has the real, funny, not funny, gorgeous, breathing world in her hands. She is giving it to you to hold for a while.”
Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine and Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves
“Mythic and particular, domestic and political, modest and ambitious, strange and familiar, Stay and Fight is a radical and ferocious success. The book disturbs the legacy of a frontier literature, and it points the way to a fresh conception of the Great American Novel.”
Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special
“In her debut novel, Madeline ffitch renders a loving and lawless portrait of a remarkable Appalachian family and the conventions that bind them with undeniable wit and brilliance. Fans of Joy Williams and Nell Zink will find a familiar, but ffitch brings her own compass to these woods and clears new ground while she’s out there. An enthralling debut.”
Amelia Gray, author of Isadora
“Madeline ffitch’s debut offering brilliantly tackles tensions among three women from diverse backgrounds and their son, struggling for freedom, self-sufficiency, and coexistence with nature, whose habitat they share in the very backwater of southeast Ohio. These endearing but sometimes quirky characters are portrayed with so much brutal tenderness, humor, honesty, and wisdom. Complex emotions and an intersectional worldview expressed in sparse prose that echoes the lyricism of the Appalachian hills.”
Zakes Mda, author of Ways of Dying
On their Appalachian homestead, an unusual family struggles with the wilderness, society, and each other.
Lily and Karen are a couple living near the West Virginia border on the Women's Land Trust. When their son, Perley, is born, they know they'll be forced to move within five years, as the land is designated as women-only. To their surprise, Helen, a Seattle transplant who lives in a camper on 20 acres of land nearby since being abandoned by her boyfriend, invites them to build a home with her; the three women, plus baby Perley, live together as a motley, but largely content, family. Lily, Karen, and Helen approach their homesteading life with varying degrees of commitment and dogmatism. Each week they play Survival Dice to determine whether they'll get food from the grocery store (Lily's preference) or live only off what the land can provide (Karen's and Helen's). As Perley grows up, he becomes accustomed to foraging for acorns, shoveling piles of "humanure," and sharing his home with tenacious black rat snakes. However, when Perley decides at age 7 that he wants to attend school, the women's unconventional lifestyle is suddenly on display, and when an accident draws the attention of Children's Services, the family is threatened by forces bigger than any they've faced before. Ffitch (Valparaiso, Round the Horn, 2014), who has a long track record as an environmental activist, has crafted a story that is unabashedly political. But what could have been a didactic or strident novel is rendered, through its multiple first-person perspectives, with wit and nuance. And Ffitch has surely created one of the best child narrators in recent memory with the charming Perley.
A cleareyed, largehearted take on the social protest novel.