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October 1, 2019
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October 3, 2019

Best novels to read this fall

Stay and Fight by Madeline Ffitch, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, US $27.00, Pp 304, July 2019, ISBN 978-0374268121
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson, William Morrow, US $26.99, Pp 352, July 2019, ISBN 978-0062855312

Helen and her boyfriend had grand plans of living off the land when they moved to Appalachian Ohio in spring. But Helen’s boyfriend leaves her even before the winter. Helen survives until next spring with the help of her boss, Rudy, and neighbors, Karen and Lily. When a son was born to Karen and Lily, they name him Perley. They know that they will have to leave the Women’s Land Trust where they have been living because the land was for the use of women only. With their newly born baby, they could not stay there for very long. This is a great occasion for Helen to invite them to jointly build a house for themselves. They will split the cost of food and make a life that sustains for a long time to come. They are a family bound not by blood but by love and they have a common struggle with the wilderness and society. This is an arrangement they all love. Perley is growing up and busies himself in foraging for acorns and shoveling piles of what they call “humanure.” Nothing scares him — not even rat snakes. Time flies. Perley is seven and asks to be sent to school. His going to school disrupts their unconventional lifestyle. They also come in the limelight. Meanwhile, Rudy builds a fruit tree nursery that brings the outside world to their small family. For Lily, Karen, and Helen, their homesteading life is a matter of commitment — and possibly dogmatism. Each week, they have to decide if they will get food from the grocery store as Lily wants or live only off what the land can provide as Karen and Helen want. But an accident disrupts everything when the attention of Children’s Services turns their attention to them. Stay and Fight is set in a region known for its independent spirit and re-defines the concept of a family. It gives a vaster meaning to family and human freedom. It is a compulsively readable novel. If you want to read a good, entertaining novel that redefines life and family, you should be looking for Stay and Fight.

About the author

She co-founded the punk theatre company Missoula Oblongata and is part of the direct-action collective Appalachia Resist! Her writings have apeared in Tin House, Guernica, Granta, Vice, and Electric Literature. She is the author of the story collection Valparaiso, Round the Horn.

*****

Amy Whey is living an ordinary, peaceful life. She takes pleasure in small things that life has for her. She takes pleasure in giving diving lessons and baking cookies for neighbors and friends. She loves to help her friends like Charlotte run their book club. Amy Whey is an active member of the book club. After caring for and giving time to her family — her husband, fifteen-year-old stepdaughter and her infant son –, the book club is her greatest joy. Her husband who is a professor is equally devoted to her and the family. Charlotte is the closest family friend. When everything seems going fine, mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux enters the book club. Driving a sports car, Angelica Roux attracts everybody’s attention. The surfacing or re-surfacing of Angelica Roux out of nowhere begins to unravel Amy’s peaceful life. Angelica Roux is attractive and magnetic but also sultry and captures the group’s attention with her charm. She makes wine flow and lures the book club members into a game of spilling secrets. Apparently, it is a harmless game, but Amy knows this is not so harmless. This is a game where even winning can be deadly — at least for Amy. Angelica Roux is wicked and a she-devil to Amy. The neighbors, friends, and book club members may not know about Amy’s past, but Angelica Roux knows everything. When Amy and Angelica Roux are alone, Angelica Roux makes it clear to her that she would have to pay a heavy price for what she had done if she does not do what Angelica Roux asks her to do. Amy knows the consequences. Unless Amy beats Angelica Roux at her own mischievous game, she is going to lose everything — her family and the life she has built. But the problem is Amy may still lose everything even if she wins the war. Full of suspense and thrills, this diabolical story is hugely entertaining. Joshilyn Jackson is a wonderful storyteller who makes you miss your heartbeats.

About the author

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of nine novels, including Gods in Alabama, The Almost Sisters. She serves on the board of and volunteers with Reforming Arts, teaching creative writing inside Lee Arrendale State Prison, Georgia’s maximum security facility for women. Through their education-in-prison and reentry programs, Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build livable lives. She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband and their two kids.

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