"Joe Halstead’s West Virginia is a moody wild ride of a novel. Dark, momentous, soulful, deeply human – the book turns the mind inside out, questioning the places we live and the reasons why we both leave them and come back." —Vol.1 Brooklyn
"Beautiful, menacing descriptions of the West Virginian environment. This tale of family ties without a falsely satisfying resolution introduces a powerful and authentic voice." —Publishers Weekly
"Halstead’s descriptions are thoroughly artistic, whether they're of the party scene or the big city’s gritty human rainbow or the strip-mined mountains and franchise-glutted highways." —Kirkus Reviews
A man seemingly trapped in the wreckage of NYC digs himself out of the digital avalanche and sprints back home screaming like a wolf. Joe Halstead's West Virginia is devastating and thrilling." —Bud Smith, author of F250
“In West Virginia, Joe Halstead tackles the rupture caused by inhabiting two very different spaces, while also bringing the malaise of the coal dust-choked hollers to life, painting a portrait that is both intriguing and unnerving.” Sam Slaughter, author of God in Neon
"If Thomas Wolfe had sat down with J. D. Salinger and written a book, the result would have been something like Joe Halstead's incredible debut novel, West Virginia. Yet Halstead's immense scope and vision are all his own, bringing the reader from New York to the generic strip malls and run-down, poverty-stricken hollers of West Virginia, where the black-lunged coal miners are the lucky ones who get to eat at Applebee's restaurants on the weekends. It is a place of desperation, but one for which the author clearly holds a conflicted affinity. Told in a narrative voice that is unique and ultra-contemporary in its execution, West Virginia is a novel that will grip you by the throat and it will not let you go, even well after you're done reading it.” David Armand, author of The Pugilist's Wife
In Halstead's debut, young Jamie Paddock is pulled home to the hard-worn, poverty-stricken West Virginia mountains by the apparent suicide of his father.Jamie was smart enough to earn entrance to New York University, leaving coal-mining country behind, but his education lasted only one anxiety-ridden year. Dropping out, Jamie begins writing scripts for an advertising company. Now word's come that his beloved father has jumped from the towering New River Gorge Bridge. Flashbacks aside, most of Jamie's tale takes place in his home state among folks "educated beyond their intelligence...knowing just enough to understand how miserable their lives actually were." The mystery of his father's death will grow as Jamie encounters more family secrets. His mother, with multiple sclerosis, and his sister, introverted and isolated because of epilepsy, are single-wide-trailer-trapped by West Virginia's poverty and without a "sense of possibility." Other supporting characters are archetypes: Sara, a Manhattan hookup with whom Jamie finds kinship while she battles depression with cutting and drugs; Jon, Jamie's boss, is riding a tech trend till it crashes and burns; and, more sympathetically, Jen, gallery manager at Tamarack, a West Virginia art center, whom Jamie finds intriguing. Halstead's descriptions are thoroughly artistic, whether they're of the party scene or the big city's gritty human rainbow or the strip-mined mountains and franchise-glutted highways. With a protagonist plagued by inner conflict and angst, the novel is generally bleak, but it closes with an allusion to better days to come. No Look Homeward Angel this; rather a hapless family and road-trip blues.