Madeline ffitch's debut novel, Stay and Fight, is immersive and compelling ... There is nothing flat or caricatured about the characters in ffitch’s novel. If Stay and Fight is concerned with representing America at all, then it is a damning picture—a place that resembles nothing of the meritocratic land of bounty and opportunity that exists in the national imaginary. America is, instead, a place hostile to the poor and to the unconventional, unconcerned with things like honest industry or merit. But, the novel is more interested in representing the complex lives of people who just happen to live in Appalachia ... a scene [is] so expertly written it makes the palms sweat ... ffitch has a knack for subverting expectations through character development ... assumptions are turned deftly upside down, and we’re left to question our own prejudices about people and place ... [The characters] refuse to be boiled down to the banal matter of wealth as so many from the region are.
A uniquely comprehensive and necessarily tangled understanding of what it means to live under normalizing forces and rapid climate degradation is present throughout Stay and Fight, though the plot pays these matters little explicit concern, and for good reason: it doesn’t have to. Told from four distinct perspectives, each character’s understanding of one another and themselves is fundamentally mediated by their conditions; ffitch doesn’t need a manifesto to demonstrate Anthropocenic stakes ... Stay and Fight is built on...moments of unlikely and nearly coincidental intimacies ... Stay and Fight is smart and self-aware enough to refuse any confident solution toward forging intimacy and independence under our current sociopolitical circumstances. It knows that such a solution does not exist. Rather, there is staying, there is fighting, and there is fighting to stay. There is trying to protect your child from harm, and there is producing unforeseen harm as a result ... Stay and Fight touches upon the most central, tender, and violent conflicts of our time without opting for simplicity, allowing the sadness and humor of family to guide its reader toward a more generative understanding of all the ways there are to stick around for something you believe in.
.. succeeds in mapping the obscure psychological and emotional territory that defines a life caught between commitment and ambivalence, between rebellion and resignation ... Ffitch hasn’t refuted the frontier novel so much as added a new chapter to an old saga. Just like the American pioneers the author might like to disown, her characters achieve independence, but fall far short of utopia. Their experiment remains incomplete, ongoing — the road ahead wide open but fraught with danger and uncertainty.
... disputation is the soundtrack to this delightfully raucous debut novel ... Ms. Ffitch’s superb comic novel evolves as well, touchingly depicting the tangled and tenacious family bonds that develop in wild places.
At times quite funny (perhaps dependent on the readers’ comfort level with snakes), Stay and Fight is more than anything a thought-provoking examination of the independence and autonomy of the family unit ... [Ffitch] infuses the pages with a fierce and complex love of place. Stay and Fight is a dark warning about the environmental impact of fracking and pipelines, as well as an anthem to the families that we create.
Stay and Fight is a powerful novel that haunts yet has derivative features that may give the reader pause. But overall, it provides a thought-provoking experience ... The novel portrays the pathology of delusion beautifully, but more importantly—hardscrabble and tough, smart and fresh— this book is unlike anything I’ve read all year. About real friendship and true love—and depravation, jealousy, denial and survival—it’s an oddball read that sucks a person straight in ... Part of this is unique, part of it feels like a Room rip-off. I leave it to the reader to figure out which part. Also Stay and Fight’s non-ending is pretty unforgivable, though it follows the general line of thought it has about there never ever being a real and permanent solution to any problem. But the strong spell of Stay and Fight is almost otherworldly. You will keep it with you for days as you allow it to spill its dark curtain around your shoulders. It’s worth a read, and is memorable, despite its flaws.
[An] engrossing, sometimes shocking and often witty debut novel ... remarkable ... Ffitch’s survival saga of strong, independent women will appeal to readers of Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina and the realistic novels by Manette Ansay, especially Vinegar Hill.
Ffitch offers no soft platitudes about found families, instead revealing the inner workings of the four narrators not as a way for readers to make sense of their actions, but so that that they can relish the joy of being immersed in someone else’s head. Ffitch’s debut is as gritty and tenderhearted as the Appalachian characters she realistically and lovingly portrays.
In her debut novel, short story writer ffitch dazzles with this irresistible take on a part of modern society largely hidden from view. The unpredictability of her characters and plotlines are deliciously compelling.
... 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.
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.