The New Valley by Josh Weil is the most beautiful book I've read this year. These three novellas set in rural Appalachia broke my heart over and over again. You won't soon forget Weil's characters: the lonely cattleman, the obsessive mechanic and his obese daughter, or the mentally handicapped gas station attendant. Each of these characters reflects our own loneliness: a hard cold light, surrounded by Weil's brilliant descriptions of things natural and man-made. Weil's illustrations for the second novella sum up the beauty and conflict of the interaction between man and machine. This haunting, lovely book heralds the arrival of an impressive literary talent.— Sarah B.
The three linked novellas that comprise Josh Weil's masterful debut bring us into America's remote and often unforgiving backcountry, and delicately open up the private worlds of three very different men as they confront love, loss, and their own personal demons.
Set in the hardscrabble hill country between the Virginias, The New Valley is populated by characters striving to forge new lives in the absence of those they have loved. Told in three varied and distinct voices-- from a soft-spoken middle-aged beef farmer struggling to hold himself together after his dad's death; to a health-obsessed single father desperate to control his reckless, overweight daughter; to a mildly retarded man who falls in love with a married woman intent on using him in a scheme that will wound them both--each novella is a vivid, stand-alone examination of Weil's uniquely romanticized relationships. As the men battle against grief and solitude, their heartache leads them all to commit acts that will bring both ruin and salvation.
Written with a deeply American tone, focused attention to story, and veneration for character, The New Valley is a tender exploration of survival, isolation, and the deep, consuming ache for human connection.
[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
Full of tenderness and looming menace . . . Gripping . . . 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. . . . Keep writing novellas, Josh Weil, because you write very good ones. You think on it, and we’ll watch.”The New York Times Book Review
Weil’s prose is quiet and assured . . . These stories are real heartbreakers, ringing true with loss and loneliness. . . . Finely crafted . . . Unforgettable.”New Orleans Times-Picayune
Keenly observed . . . Absolutely and utterly devastating . . . Weil’s major talentand it is majorlies in making the gears and levers of the book operate seamlessly, like the engines and equipment that litter its pages. He writes with little pretense or adornment, content to let the story come to him. . . . Every word feels necessary. Weil’s keen observational eye brings the smallest details of the lives of these three men to light, and their acuity makes his other analyses gleam with truth. . . . Weil makes the reader aware of [his characters’] humanity, and their emotions and heartbreak give this book a quiet heaviness, like the Blue Ridge Mountains that loom in the background.”The Rumpus
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
Powerful, masterful, haunting, and utterly unique.”Robert Goolrick
Weil’s debut is a stark and haunting triptych of novellas set in the rusted-out hills straddling the border between the Virginias. . . . Taken individually, each novella offers its own tragic pleasure, but together, the works create a deeply human landscape that delivers great beauty.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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.”Booklist
I was captivated and moved by each of these finely made novellas. The quiet, mostly ordinary lives of the characters who populate The New Valley shine with a strange and intense luminosity that is at times heartbreaking, at other times triumphant. There is a magic and gentle beauty in this book that makes me remember why I had always wanted to be a writer.”Tim O’Brien
Josh Weil’s debut book The New Valley has a sense of the notable on every page. This is the very rare but clear case of the sky being the limit for a young author.”Jim Harrison
Josh Weil is a terrific young writer. His sense of what is crucial and dramatic make his stories deeply alive.”John Casey
In these meticulously crafted narratives about rural life in the Virginia hill country, Josh Weil explores masculine loneliness with classic richness and depth. This is old-fashioned storytelling in the very best sense.”Helen Schulman, author of P.S. and A Day at the Beach
In Josh Weil’s soulful debut fiction, hard, wintery men bring the near-dead back to life. A steer, a tractor, a woman bolt upright, clearly heart-charged by the obsessive attentions of these cut-off men. The prose unfailingly befits the action and is percussively wrought and rich or else plain and grave but always deeply moving.”Christine Schutt, author of All Souls and Florida, a National Book Award Finalist
This is beautiful, heartrending fiction. With deep pathos and stunning imagination, Weil gives a powerful voice to lives too often ignored and throws brilliant light on places in our countryand our heartsthat are too often in the dark. The New Valley marks the arrival of an important new writer in American letters.”Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi: Stories
While I read these novellas, I realized at some point early on I kept holding my breath. Why? Because Josh Weil's stories are about people who tell no one anything, evermen who know more cattle than they do people, and who trust the cattle more. Men who shrug off their heartbreak and die with their secrets. By turns sweet, funny, heartbreaking, and terrifying, Josh Weil makes his quietly powerful debut.”Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh
Weil’s domain is the parallel world of rural America that still exists just outside the swaddled precincts of the 21st century. His prosetaut, precise, as unflinching as it is tender, particularly in Ridge Weather’suggests a strong new voice in American fiction.”Mark Slouka, author of The Visible World
Beware these seemingly quiet novellas: they hit hard. Josh Weil has created devastatingly memorable characters of people rarely noticed and never loved. With remarkable skill and insight, he has located the spot in the human heart where loneliness resides. Exquisitely written, deeply felt, and haunting, The New Valley is a beautiful book.”Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route
With The New Valley, Josh Weil makes a spectacular entry in the art of American storytelling. His rendering of place is strong as Flannery O’Connor’s; his engagement with the moral landscape as sure as Cormac McCarthy’s. In their contemplation of the past, Weil's charactersearthy, scrappy, often comicseek restoration. These three fine novellas remind us with wit and energy that we are all in for repair.”Maureen Howard