New Valley (Weil) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Read back to back to back, these novellas form a triptych—detailed works in their own right, they offer more than the sum of their parts when taken together. Weil meticulously imagines people and their histories, and presents them as a product of their places. This is perhaps the hardest thing for a fiction writer of any age, working in any form, to accomplish.
Anthony Doerr - New York Times


Critics claiming that American short fiction is on life-support should sample the healing elixir of Josh Weil’s breakout collection. In this mesmerizing debut, Weil offers up three razor-sharp novellas...that ring sincere and rarely hit a false note.... These are quiet stories of struggle, survival, heartbreak and grace.... Readers will find glimpses of Bobbie Ann Mason’s depictions of the small-town poor mixed with Annie Proulx’s evocative landscape language.... [Weil’s] writing is understated [and] as strong as steel.
Charleston Gazette-Mail


[Weil’s] language is exquisite, his sentences glorious. In fact, [he] writes the kinds of sentences you want to go sniff and then slosh around in your mouth for a while before heading into the next paragraph. The kind that make you set the book down and think, the kind that can break your heart with their truthful simplicity.... Refreshing and engaging.
Ploughshares


Weil's debut is a stark and haunting triptych of novellas set in the rusted-out hills straddling the border between the Virginias. In "Ridge Weather," Osby, a hardscrabble cattle rancher, finds himself lonely and isolated after his father's suicide. In the aftermath he struggles to make some sort of a personal connection in increasingly desperate attempts to be needed by someone. In "Stillman Wing," the elderly Charlie Stillman, afraid of his own mortality, tries to reinvigorate his life by stealing and reconditioning a tractor, all the while maintaining a relationship with his obese, promiscuous daughter and coming to terms with the death of his barnstormer parents. "Sarverville Remains," takes the form of a letter from Geoffrey Sarver, a mildly retarded orphan, to an incarcerated man whose wife he has fallen in love with, and takes on the elements of a well-told crime story. All three pieces, despite their somber tones, offer renewal for their protagonists. Taken individually, each novella offers its own tragic pleasures, but together, the works create a deeply human landscape that delivers great beauty.
Publishers Weekly


Set in a rural West Virginia valley, this debut novel by Fulbright winner Weil uses linked novellas to show how three loners, with the resilience to make one final connection, bring meaning to their lives. In "Ridge Weather," when Osby Caudill's father dies, Osby realizes they never were much company to each other. A local woman fails to seduce him, and having a renter doesn't work out. Only when he cures a sick steer does he connect with another creature. The title character in "Stillman Wing" is a cantankerous man whose daughter brings home lowlifes to sleep with her. Stillman derides her reckless behavior, but, afraid of losing her, acts recklessly himself by taking a moonlight swim in a toxic pond. "Sarverville Remains" is narrated by Geoff Sarver, a mentally slow man, who hangs out with younger troublemakers who go to Linda Podawalski for sex behind the local bar. Linda uses Geoff to get rid of her husband, but she also gives him the courage to strike out for land where Sarvers fled in search of a new life decades ago. Intense and satisfying; highly recommended for all public libraries. —Donna Bettencourt
Library Journal


A restive nobility binds the sorrowful protagonists of Weil’s stellar debut collection of novellas, each a tender anthem to a starkly unforgiving Virginia countryside and the misguided determination of its most forsaken residents.... Throughout, Weil limns a rugged emotional landscape every bit as raw and desolate as the land that inspired it, delivering an eloquent portrait of people who defiantly cling to a fierce independence. —Carol Haggas
Booklist


Intimacy eludes the misfits in Weil's debut, three novellas set in the backwoods of Virginia. In the slight first entry, Ridge Weather, father and son used to tend their five small herds of cattle together. Now it's all on the son, 38-year-old Osby, for his father has committed suicide. At least he still has the cows for company; his greatest fear is of a solitary entombment. Yet when a middle-aged divorcee offers herself to him, Osby bolts. It's a superficial story, leaving us wondering about the causes of the father's suicide and the son's ingrained isolation. Cause and effect are clear in the second entry, Stillman Wing. The eponymous Wing is a "fear-driven man" because while a child he witnessed the death of his parents, daredevil pilots, in a crash. Fearful of risk, Wing worked for 50 years as a mechanic for a moving-equipment company and failed to tie the knot with the carefree Ginny. His daughter Caroline (Ginny is long gone) has become the new risk-taker. She drives in demolition derbies. She binges, sending her weight to 300 pounds, and craves one-night stands. Wing loves her dearly, but his censoriousness drives her away. Now retired, Wing spends his time restoring a vintage 1928 tractor, his last love. The story is contrived and overly schematic. The third entry, Sarverville Remains, though too long and cluttered, has an undeniable power. Geoffrey Sarver is a mildly retarded gas-station attendant. After his kin, all hill people, disappeared, he was raised in foster homes (Weil captures their smothering condescension). Now 30-ish, Geoff hangs out with some high-school kids. They know a restaurant worker, Linda, who fellates them for free. In his artfully garbled voice, Geoff describes how he and Linda, trapped in a bad marriage, become friends. Their one date ends disastrously when the husband shows up. Geoff loses an eye, yet the showdown is also his long-delayed rite of passage into adulthood. Weil's empathy for his damaged people has not yet found a compatible narrative.
Kirkus Reviews

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