Ffitch, Madeline. “Stay and Fight: A Novel”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2019.
Independence and Protest
Madeline ffitch’s “Stay and Fight: A Novel” is a tribute to independence and a protest against the materialism in which we live today. We meet Helen who comes to Appalachian Ohio full of love and her boyfriend’s ideas for living off the land. However, with winter coming, he calls it quits. Rudy, Helen’s “government-questioning, wisdom-spouting, seasonal-affective-disordered boss” and a neighbor couple, Karen and Lily, come to help and Helen makes it to spring. The neighbors are awaiting the arrival of their first child, a boy, which means their time at the Women’s Land Trust must end.
Helen invites the new family to move in with her and they split the work and the food, build a house, and build a sustaining for years. Then young Perley decides he wants to go to school and Rudy sets up a fruit-tree nursery on the pipeline easement edging their land. With that, the outside world then comes into their makeshift family.
The part of Ohio Set is known for its independent spirit and what occurs in the novel changes what it means to be a family, to live well, to work in nature and to make deals with the system. This is a protest novel that challenges how we think about effective action and it is a family novel that refuses to conform to the traditional definition of how we define the word and concept of family. We are challenged to reimagine Appalachia and the America that we think we know and gives us a new understanding of what it means to love and to be free.
Winter in Appalachian Ohio is rough and demands adequate preparation. For Helen, this meant bringing her recently displaced neighbors and their son to help create a homestead with her on 20 acres of land. By the time Perley says that he wants to leave their isolated existence to go to school, we have a different picture of this way of life with all of its problems and dangers— “sleeping with black rat snakes, minding the “humanure” pile, and foraging for dinner when the daily game of “survival dice” doesn’t win a trip to the grocery store.” When an innocent accident attracts the attention of Social Services, the family’s world faces change. Madeline ffitch’s takes us from family drama to a political one that threatens their way of life. The characterizations of the family, especially Perley, who is bonded to each member gives the motivation behind the title of the book. This is celebration of family and what freedom means.
This book is filled with quick verbal exchanges banter and complicated, unforgettable characters. Here is a queer feminist pioneer novel and the story of a different America. It looks at central, tender, and violent conflicts of our time as we see through the family’s sadness and humor. The prose is fresh and evocative. Personalities are revealed through the eyes of others. Yet, everyone is an unreliable narrator towards their own life; they each see themselves as completely differently to how the other characters saw them making this an original way to tell a story. Everyone has the best intentions but nobody is totally sympathetic. It is up to us to decide how to see the characters thus involving us in what we read.”