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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  279 ratings  ·  75 reviews
The alternate cover edition for this book can be found here.

This was Drear’s Bluff. Nothing bad happened here. People didn’t disappear.

College was supposed to be an escape for Emily Skinner. But after failing out of school, she’s left with no choice but to return to her small hometown in the Ozarks, a place run on gossip and good Christian values.

She’s not alone. Emily’s f
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing
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Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

I first heard of "Cottonmouths" after I came across my friend Ellen's review. After reading her review and the description of the book, I knew I had to read it.

Emily Skinner returns to her hometown after dropping out of college. She tells herself it's just temporary, just like the fast-food job she's taken but hasn't told her mother about. She's been back for about a month already. If she's honest with herself, she's alread
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
You know that feeling when you see a book that you KNOW is the one for you?

This is one of those books for me. I saw it many months appear on GR and kept stalking waiting for it. I had really high hopes for it. Then I got denied for it. I whined to everyone that would listen without telling me to shut up with my first world problems. Okay, so I whined to the ones that told me that also.
Then finally I threw all the craps to the wind and resorted to a different avenue.

Not only for myself but for
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“How’d you get mixed up in all this anyway?”
“Same as you, I suppose.”
“You got student loan debt too?”

My advance apologies for the mess which you are about to receive. The second I first saw Cottonmouths went a lil’ summin’ like so . . . .

Alas, it was not meant to be and I was immediately denied the ARC. And then the pestering of the porny librarian began. I tried to get so many libraries to buy this in so many formats I got the int
Ellen Gail
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Put this on your TBR right now. No excuses. No waiting. You want to read this.

I have two questions right off the bat for Kelly J. Ford:
A) How on earth is your first novel this good?
B) When are you writing something else? And how fast can you get me a copy of it? Cause now would be good.

I'm going to be going through book withdrawals y'all. Cottonmouths wrecked me.

How do I describe this wondrous book? I texted my bff immediately after finished to apologize for taking ages to respond. I can't te
Bill Kupersmith
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: me-emma
One of the blurbs on the back jacket refers to Cottonmouth as “a Southern gothic, but I could imagine transposing it to Iowa with only a few landscaping changes. Emily received a scholarship to escape the appropriately named Arkansas small town of Drear’s Bluff somewhere near Fort Smith, but succeeded only in flunking out her first semester with a pile of student loans to pay and no prospects of a decent job. She is also back in the company of Jody, the BF and lover of Emily’s teen years. Jody h ...more
Mike Hughes
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Loved this debut by new author Kelly Ford. great southern noir at its finest. loved the characters, story line and overall writing style. Saw a blurb about the book referencing Daniel Woodrell and it couldn't have been more accurate, right up there with his style. Dark and desperate at times, but couldn't turn away, just had to find out what was going to happen next to Emily. Book was listed on Edelweiss as Fiction/Lesbian? not sure why they had to throw the Lesbian title in there, this book is ...more
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So good. I had 50 pages left to go tonight when I realized I needed to jump in the shower and get ready for my evening plans – and yet I'm sitting here instead, just having finished it, writing this review. It just wasn't possible to put it down, not possible to leave the world of the characters. Kelly J. Ford has written a world-- from the small town relationship's to Emily's too-relatable college ennui. And the plot twists! I definitely did not see the ending coming – in fact, I was wondering ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I found myself in a quandary after reading this book. Should I rate on how well it is written or should I rate the book on whether or not I liked it? This is indeed a well written book. It is the type of fiction that goes under the "literature" heading and it's gritty and harsh and filled with angst.
All that being said, I did not enjoy reading this book. It's just so damn depressing. I was constantly anxious about what new tragedy was about to befall these defeated characters. IMHO, life is ha
Whew! I almost thought I was going to read this wrong. My favorite reviewers loved this book and I was so excited to read it. Unfortunately, my patience is almost non existent these days and the slow burn start was getting to me. Once I finished, however, I understood all the hype.
SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*
Southern drama and tragedy at it's best. Would recommend.
Crystal King
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary, lgbtq
Cottonmouths is a rough, gritty, and almost too real-feeling book that twists the reader around its finger and then punches them in the gut when least expected. Kelly J. Ford has written a masterful debut that explores the depths of human longing, desire and desperation. Cottonmouths is a true look at the hard dark side of the South, through the underbelly that takes us far from the world we know from being schooled on films like Steel Magnolias. I can't wait to see what will come next from this ...more
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome debut!
Stephanie Gayle
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I blurbed this book, so you know I loved it.

"Part noir, part Southern Gothic, Cottonmouths is far more than the sum of these parts, an original story that haunted me after I read it. Kelly Ford’s unflinching prose plunges readers into the town of Drear’s Bluff, where what’s familiar isn’t what’s safe and where desire proves deadly."

What I couldn’t write in the blurb, because I was limited by space, was how original the setting and characters are. There aren’t a lot of books set in Arkansas featu
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a great book! Nice slow build to a crazy exciting end. Don't want to spoil any of it, so I'll leave it at that. Can't wait to read more from Kelly!
Ms. Fussner
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kelly Ford's debut novel is a work of brilliance. Gripping, gut-wrenching, suspenseful, with sentences so beautiful and so captivating that I wanted to live inside of them. Even as the protagonist's world was falling apart around her, I could not look away. I ignored several responsibilities to keep reading. I ignored opportunities to binge-watch "The Great British Bake Off" to keep reading. I ignored working on my own novel to keep reading.

This is a book that demands to be read. I read it all
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have so many thoughts running through my head after reading this book, I don’t know where to begin. It’s a story about two young women in a very small town, way out in the boonies, who reconnect as young adults. Throughout their friendship in high school and in the present, Emily has harbored a crush on bad girl, Jody, that is 9 parts obsession and 1 part devotion. Had the story had been told more typically, then the smart one, Emily, would have come back triumphantly with her degree or would ...more
Kevin Catalano
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the best possible way, Cottonmouths reminded me of Megan Abbott's novels where Ford patiently builds momentum through excellent characterization and setting -- creating tension in the human relationships -- and then, WHAM!, the tension gives and the final third of the novel is a relentless avalanche of physical and emotional (and moral) destruction. While my comparison of Ford to Abbott is meant as the highest possible praise, Ford distinguishes herself through her gritty country-noir style. ...more
Caroline Woods
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Southern grit lit at its finest--this book grabbed tight hold of me and did not let go until its intense, satisfying conclusion. This is not fiction for the faint of heart. It's dark, suspenseful, and highly addictive.

Besides creating a fantastic thriller, the author painted a compelling portrait of what it's like to be a young adult struggling with her sexual identity in a claustrophobic, judgmental Arkansas town. I sympathized deeply with Emily's suffocation and anguish, and I wanted her to t
Lisa Duffy
I loved the honesty of this story, and the way it looked at every aspect of unrequited love, friendship, desire and desperation with an unflinching eye. Once you start Kelly Ford’s novel, you won’t be able to put it down—a stunning, unique and memorable debut.
Sam Segan
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cottonmouths is as much about unrequited love as it is about meth labs, which makes it a truly universal story. Emily's fierce denial in the face of warning signs about the object of her infatuation rings true and creates incredible dramatic irony. Readers know she's making mistake after mistake, but we can't help but empathize with her decisions. (Who among us, sexuality aside, hasn't had a tragically unrequited crush?). Ford portrays settings and characters other writers all too often make int ...more
Andy Davidson
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A heartbreaking debut about the lies we tell ourselves to brave the past—and the truths we hide that hurt us most. An honest, unflinching portrait of yearning and loss.
Philip Vernon
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a SC transplant living in Canada, I'm often asked about growing up in the South, particularly in a small town seemingly immune to economic recovery. I used to reply, "imagine the sort of place where a shuttered factory means everyone all the way up to the pastor is suddenly addicted to pain pills."
But now? I plan to answer, "COTTONMOUTHS by Kelly J. Ford. Read it."

Unflinching. Compulsive. Queer AF. Ford deftly captures so many painful realities for Southerners: the guilt and resentment liv
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ford does an amazing job of setting the scene in small-town Arkansas, a place I've never been but one that feels familiar thanks to her atmospheric prose--it's all in the details.

Emily is fighting feelings of failure after dropping out of college and returning home, something she thought she would never do. In her fog of self-doubt, she finds herself tangled up with Jody, the one person she shouldn't be tangled up with. As teenagers, the two girls had been nearly inseparable, but now, they find
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even though I was on a beach vacation when I read this book, it was so suspenseful that the book and I never made it outside. This is a gripping tale of an especially evil unrequited love between finely nuanced characters. I especially loved the complicated, very un-pat ending that haunted me well after I was done. Ford is excellent at avoiding stereotypes and bringing real, modern-day rural America to life. Loved this!
Annie Hartnett
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rich & complicated, and that ending will make your heart pound.
Jenny Williams
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
COTTONMOUTHS is relentless: visceral, unflinching, incisive, and gritty. To call it a thriller isn't quite enough; it's also tender and full of truth. (Though the thriller aspect is real--I swear I didn't exhale until I turned the final page.) The world of Emily and Jody and August and Troy is one I know little about, and so it's a world I found myself hungry to understand. I'm grateful to author Kelly Ford for being my guide.
Sharissa Jones
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It's such a beautiful, lyrical take on modern rural life. The author weaves a web of characters who surpass the typical rural stereotypes of goody-goodies and gun-toting vigilantes. Drear's Bluff and its residents ring true at every level, from the convenience store owner who gossips to cover up her pain and worry for her son to the meth dealer trying to create a better life. A wonderful debut.
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Emily is a college dropout returned, tail between her legs, to her home in Drear's Bluff, Arkansas, where she must face not only her failure to escape but also a mother who wants so much for her daughter not to be gay and the girl Emily has loved and pined for since high school. Ford is especially deft when it comes to depicting the ruts of poverty and small town life. A great read about longing and hard choices.
Emily Ross
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kelly Fords debut novel Cottonmouths is a gripping read whose beautiful prose pulls you in, even as you race to turn the pages. It so vividly evokes the lives of the working poor in the rural south, you can feel the heat, the sweat pooling, and the venom that hides behind the smiles of the well-meaning but small-minded people in Emily Skinner’s home town of Drear's Bluff. It’s no wonder that when she fails out of college she’s humiliated and depressed to return to this place where opportunities ...more
Kathleen Gray
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An extremely impressive debut. THis is a dark dark tale that's very atmospherically set in the South but which could, sadly, be set anywhere in the US. It's also a coming of age story for Emily, who must regrettably experience the worst of human nature and unrequited love. I know that the publisher has categorized this as LGBTQ but that's not the way I would sell this. It's a wonderfully written, carefully plotted novel with terrific characters. This is one that lingers in the mind. Thanks to ed ...more
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Kelly J. Ford is the author of Cottonmouths, named one of 2017’s best books of the year by the Los Angeles Review. Her work has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Knee-Jerk Magazine. She is Framingham State University’s Miriam Levine Reader for 2018, an instructor for GrubStreet Writing Center, and an IT project manager. Kelly is Arkansas bred and Boston based.

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“Where she was headed, the cast iron skillet had been seasoned before she was born. Her” 1 likes
“Watching her walk away, Emily felt as dirty as if she’d been watching porn. The craving came on like a fever, as if a coal had been stoked within and blurred the edges of reasonable thought. Rather than push it away, she sat on the floor and let the desire consume her. A” 0 likes
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