This novel is set in Appalachian Ohio in 2015, and is told in four voices. Helen moves to the area from Seattle to do the “back-to-the-land” thing with her boyfriend, but he lasts only a few months. Karen and Lily are Helen’s neighbors, a lesbian couple who grew up there, and Perley is their young son. They all move in together and form a family. They are committed to stay, and their fights are not just among themselves, but also against a pipeline building project that threatens them and their community. “This is a stellar novel.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review. “On their Appalachian homestead, an unusual family struggles with the wilderness, society, and each other . . . 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.” Kirkus Reviews. “An enthralling debut.” – Amelia Gray. “No marketing copy – no matter how sharp – can fully portray the rich, insightful exploration of family authority, nature, and Appalachia herein. So you really should read this sparkling debut for yourself.” – Pete Mulvihill. “Through a blend of sharp dialogue, lyrical description, and wise observation, ffitch takes us deep into the hearts of her characters and the land they inhabit. The prose sings a new way of seeing Appalachia into the world, while cleaving to some of what is familiar.” – Melanie McNair. “I found myself really drawn to the author’s use of language, particularly in the dialogue and the characters’ inner monologues. There is a sort of rawness to the word choice that seems to fit how things actually flow in real life—unpolished. The characters and their relationships also stood out to me. The primary layers all had a core whose gravity could be felt actively trying to hold on to their chosen family and way of life.” – Erin Mays Caudill. “Hers is the fiercest, wisest book about parenting that I’ve read in a very long time.” – Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. “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. This is Madelnie ffitch’s first novel, following the story collection, Valparaiso Round the Horn. She says she inherited her last name, ffitch, uncapitalized, from her father who is from Great Britain. She wrote a draft of this novel as her doctoral dissertation at Ohio University in Athens which she describes as the nearest town to the small farm where she lives. This earned her a PhD in 2018. In an essay in Granta about her experiences protesting pipeline construction with native people at Standing Rock, she wrote, “… Friends ask me about being a parent who also remains politically involved. They ask me what it’s like to bring my kids with me to demonstrations, meetings and trainings, to breastfeed while facing a cop in riot gear, to be peed on by my baby at a direct-action training, to carry my toddler piggyback while marching through the streets. They want to know what it was like to bring my two young children to Standing Rock.…The idea that political work is for young, idealistic, childless adults is one way to keep such work carefully controlled, to cast it as exceptional, a hobby for the privileged few, when of course it’s neither. It’s ordinary and necessary. So is parenting.”
Stay and Fight by Madeline ffitch. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019. 289 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.