Reviews, reviews, reviews!

I’m a bit behind with these, but am just pleased as can be that Fall Back Down When I Die continues to garner strong reviews. Below, you can find selections from recent reviews at the Wall Street Journal, Orion, and Outside, and, too, you can check out Lithub’s Every Day Is Earth Day list of novels and poetry, which, alongside works by luminaries like John Steinbeck and Ursula K. Le Guin, includes Fall Back Down When I Die!

Wilkins’s propulsive debut, “Fall Back Down When I Die,” takes place in and around the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana during the Obama presidency, when anti-government paranoia escalated into sporadic crescendos of violence. Mr. Wilkins charts that course with skill and concision […] Though he stresses the persistence of kindness and community, the enduring depiction in “Fall Back Down When I Die” is of a small-scale civil war pitting towns, neighbors, childhood friends and family members against one another. Blood ties to the land result in generation-spanning blood debts.

– Sam Sax, the Wall Street Journal

To read Joe Wilkins’s first novel is to spend time in eastern Montana, to feel the sharp wind cutting across the cedar ridges, through the sagebrush and bunchgrass, kicking up dust that gathers into grit at the corner of your eyes. It is to hear the sweet, languid whistles of the meadowlarks in the fields. It is to feel “the gravel and the ruts and the old cracked tires” beneath you and to see, above you, always, the wide sky, its “whole box of colors” and its “extravagant stars,” that pull of the sublime to lift your gaze from the intractable earth. And it is to know how hard-earned the beauty is. Wilkins achieves a rich evocation of place through seasoned language, tough and tender like the steak the characters are always eating. It is a landscape where they chew on their trouble, pick old bones, are gnawed at by their losses.

– Holly Haworth, Orion

Wilkins’s novel feels insightful amid the ongoing debate over public land and legal rights, but it’s also timeless, and it treads the same kind of territory as writers like Kent Haruf and Ivan Doig, digging into quiet stories of people living close to the land.

– Heather Hansman, Outside

Another Essay in Orion

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Crazy late with this (I’m just catching up), but I have a short essay in the September/October 2014 issue of Orion. As with every issue of Orion, this one is required reading; I mean, new work by Terry Tempest Williams, Luis Alberto Urrea, Brian Doyle, and Kathleen Dean Moore, as well as reviews, poems, and so much more–if you aren’t subscribed to Orion, well, you’re missing out!

“Notes from the Bulls” in Orion

Orion July-Aug 2013


Though it isn’t available online, my story “Notes from the Bulls: the Unedited Journals of Verl Newman” is in the latest issue of Orion. Lots of wonderful work in this issue, including essays by Barry Lopez and Ander Monson, poetry by Todd Davis, and a series of stunning paintings by James Lavadour that accompany my story. Truly, there’s just no excuse not to be subscribed to Orion!

Interview at the Orion’s Blog

Thanks to Scott Gast for the great interview about The Mountains and the Fathers. Here’s a short excerpt:

In the book’s prologue, you write, “In story we learn to live like human beings in the dark houses of our bodies.”  I love that line—it’s the kind of sentence I’m tempted to write down, tear from my notebook, and pin on the wall. Can you say a bit about the power of story in your life?

My grandfather was a wonderful teller of tales. After Sunday dinner we’d all sit in the front room and read and talk until late. And no matter the topic at hand, my grandfather had a story for it, a story that deepened or turned or somehow complicated the conversation. There were seldom any morals, seldom any clear arguments or ideas. Yet the stories mattered; they were full of things to think on, to wonder at and hold close. And I did. I carried and still carry my grandfather’s stories.