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Fight No More: Stories


Fight No More: Stories

As a real estate agent, Nina is familiar not just with the houses she sells for her clients, but also with the clients themselves. Spending time in their private spaces, and learning the reasons they are selling or looking to buy new houses, she gets to know them in some subtle ways beyond a typical professional relationship. This unstated and unexpected intimacy, created in her work, is what ties together the 12 related stories in Lydia Millet’s new short story collection. Like much of Millet’s previous work, FIGHT NO MORE is thoughtful, sharply intelligent, strange and funny, yet at turns dark and even frightening.

Though technically a book of short stories, in many ways FIGHT NO MORE reads like a novel. There are only a handful of main characters, with Nina at the center, who weave their way in and out of the pages. Readers first meet Nina in “Libertines” as she sits in the bathroom of one of her listings, leafing through the pages of a book and thinking about her sister. She coolly observes the potential buyer --- a sheikh perhaps, or a dictator --- but later it turns out she is wrong on both counts. This routine yet interesting showing turns dramatic and dangerous when someone falls in the pool and nearly drowns, and someone else seems to take a liking to Nina. That someone else is a musician named Lynn, and by the fourth story, “Self-Expression and Leadership,” they are a couple.

"FIGHT NO MORE is thoughtful, sharply intelligent, strange and funny, yet at turns dark and even frightening.... Millet’s storytelling is amazing, from her pacing to her plotting to her original style and phrasing."

Jeremy is a surly and smart teenager who tries to sabotage the selling of his mother’s house by staying home during a showing and masturbating during an online chat with Lexie, a young woman he is beginning to know outside of her sex work, in the story titled “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Later, in “Stockholm,” he will get Lexie a job as caretaker for both his newborn half-sibling and his elderly grandmother. This cements their friendship, allowing Jeremy to navigate some tricky family dynamics with Lexie as a reliable friend. For Lexie, the job and her new home with Jeremy’s family provide her safety from an abusive stepfather. However, like Nina and Lynn’s relationship, the one between Lexie and her stepfather ends worse than imagined.

Nina’s loss is explored in “I Knew You in This Dark.” Going about her daily life (odd though it sometimes is --- trying to sell a house for a vampire, for example), Nina mourns Lynn and looks for ways to move forward without him, and considers reconnecting with her distant and judgmental sister. In “God Save the Queen,” Millet gives readers Jeremy’s perspective as he tries to help Lexie just moments after she experiences a horrific event. But the story right before that one, “I Can’t Go On,” belongs to Pete, Lexie’s stepfather, who has been raping her for the past two years. This is a graphic, disturbing, gut-punch of a story, and Millet handles it with a power and control that few writers could manage.

FIGHT NO MORE starts out good and by the end is totally fantastic. Millet builds the tension, revealing more and more about her handful of characters in each story, as well as connecting them to each other. In some ways, the houses are symbolic of the lives lived in them, and so it makes sense that Nina brings everything together. But Millet is less concerned about symbolism and more focused on telling the tale of these very real people with all their flaws and all their strengths.

Aside from Jeremy and Lynn, two good and complex guys, FIGHT NO MORE is about women and the way they deal with love, danger, loneliness and their own pasts. Millet’s storytelling is amazing, from her pacing to her plotting to her original style and phrasing. This is a riveting collection and another superb offering from this PEN Award-winning author.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on June 15, 2018

Fight No More: Stories
by Lydia Millet

  • Publication Date: June 18, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • ISBN-10: 039335704X
  • ISBN-13: 9780393357042