Stay and Fight

Farrar. Jul. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780374268121. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374719715. F
When boyfriend Shane convinces Helen to live off the grid on a piece of her family’s land in Appalachian Ohio, it’s Shane who later bails for the comforts of regular life. Helen then connects with gay couple Karen and Lily, who were forced to leave the nearby Women’s Land Trust when Lily gave birth to their baby boy, Perley. It’s a hard-scrabble life for years as the three strong-minded, cantankerous women build a rickety shack infested with supposedly harmless black snakes and learn to make do. Neighbor Rudy, with his fruit tree nursery that is on a collision course with an advancing pipeline, is even more feral than the women, dipping in and out of their lives as he battles depression. It’s a fascinating journey of using every scrap of nature—deer heads, human waste, and all the flora and fauna around them—just to survive. Their delicate balance suffers a catastrophic blow when Perley insists on going to school. One day he shows up with a grievous snake bite wound on his face, forcing Child Protective Services to step in and remove him from the only life he’s ever known.
VERDICT In her debut novel, short story writer ffitch (Valparaiso, Round the Horn) 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

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