Stay and Fight by Madeline Ffitch
Reviewed by GGGinny
What I drank: white wine! My foot is broken and my mom came to visit to help me get my life in order and boy did I need the help.
Helen arrives in Appalachian Ohio full of love and her boyfriend’s ideas for living off the land. Too soon, with winter coming, he calls it quits. Helped by Rudy—her government-questioning, wisdom-spouting, seasonal-affective-disordered boss—and a neighbor couple, Helen makes it to spring. Those neighbors, Karen and Lily, are awaiting the arrival of their first child, a boy, which means their time at the Women’s Land Trust must end.
So Helen invites the new family to throw in with her—they’ll split the work and the food, build a house, and make a life that sustains them, if barely, 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. The outside world is brought clamoring into their makeshift family.
Set in a region known for its independent spirit, Stay and Fight shakes up what it means to be a family, to live well, to make peace with nature and make deals with the system. It is a protest novel that challenges our notions of effective action. It is a family novel that refuses to limit the term. And it is a marvel of storytelling that both breaks with tradition and celebrates it. Best of all, it is full of flawed, cantankerous, flesh-and-blood characters who remind us that conflict isn’t the end of love, but the real beginning.
Absorbingly spun, perfectly voiced, and disruptively political, Madeline ffitch’s Stay and Fight forces us to reimagine an Appalachia—and an America—we think we know. And it takes us, laughing and fighting, into a new understanding of what it means to love and to be free.
Drunk Overview: the premise of this book is hard to explain. Helen buys land in appalachia and gets super into living off the land. She invites couple (Lily and Karen) and their son (Perley) to live with her (because boy child means they can’t keep living in the women’s commune). And boy is that kid weird (becausw they’re basically all survivalists and the kid basically hasnt talked to someoje other than them). Then Perley decides he wants to go to school.
Drunk Thoughts: Parts of this book were wonderful.
- The perspectives switch betweem the three women and Perley which does a great job of highlightong strengths, weaknesses, and character flaws.
- These characters are so dynamic. It is so easy to picture them and their reactions.
- The constant bickering made sense, but was also really frustrating.
- I also feel the need to mention Rudy, a neighbor who fells trees and is kind of a semi professional asshole who is weirdly charming.
- I think he does a nice job of balancing the book because he doesn’t seem to be a in his head as the other characters. Although that may be the wrong way of putting it…
- Rudy is exactly who he says he is. Theres no pretense there. He’s a bit of a duck but he doesn’t hide it.
- Perleys perspective was the hardest for me. Partially because, again, kids kind of weird
- But he’s also so well written, a child’s understanding of adult situations is going to be wildly different than an adults. Whenever he misunderstandings what’s happening (usually saying the worst possible thibg), it makes sense from his perspective.
- Parts of this book feel so slow.
- I have a hard time saying the pacing is off because I really do think this book is well written. But some of the book feels like it draaaaaaaaaaags.
- But the writing style and the insights the characters have about each other are wonderful. This story is incredibly well crafted
- Which is what made the ending so disappointing to me.
- I think there’s a trend in books right now to end the book a chapter too early.
- There’s something to be said about making an ending ambiguous, but there’s also something to be said about leaving what should be the climax of your book unfinished.
- I don’t think there a clean way for this book to have ended, but I finished this book and all I could think is “that was fine…” which is unfortunate after I had such high praise for other parts.
- I was so frustrated that I couldn’t make myself start another book for most of the day – just so I wouldn’t face the same disappointing kind of ending.
- Sidenote, the number of times I wondered how someone could live like that was many.
- My pampered life with air conditioning and no grubs in my food is so far from this book. But my childhood where I dreamed of being the new version of the kid from hatchet was suddenly glad I never actually ran away from home.
What it Pairs With: natural ice. Rudy’s drink of choice.
Rating: 2.5/5. The ending undid all the good from earlier in the book