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4.14  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  73 reviews
In this timeless, mythical tale of unforgiving justice and elusive grace, rural Mississippi townsfolk shoulder the pain of generations as something dangerous lurks in the enigmatic kudzu of the woods.
The town of Red Bluff, Mississippi, has seen better days, though those who've held on have little memory of when that was. Myer, the county's aged, sardonic lawman, still
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 by Little, Brown and Company
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Michael Smith In Blackwood, the woman is remembering it, and mentions dropping a slip of paper with the child's name into the backpack. Good question.

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  188 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The talented Michael Farris Smith's latest Southern gothic novel is hard edged, gritty, and uncompromising in its bleak vision and darkness with its anatomy of a dying small town, Red Bluff, at which unnamed drifters, a man, woman and boy arrive after their car breaks down. They have discarded one young boy earlier, unable to afford to keep him, they are ragged, desperate, and starving. Smith asks deep philosophical and religious questions in his narrative, as the drifters settle amidst the lush ...more
Elyse  Walters
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lock your doors and watch your children....
....this book is batty-bonkers meshuggah- FANTASTIC!

is a writer-rock-star!!!
Ive read everyone of his books - loved each one - and Blackwood tops them all!!

Its tempting to share details - but the less you know the better.
Blackwood starts with two gripping beginning scenes: 1956....
Then jumps to 1975: with another gripping scene.
Both scenes never leave the readers thoughts
.....the action kept moving
Brenda -Traveling Sister
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Sweet goodness, gracious!! Blackwood is one remarkable story that surprised me!

What a unique talent Michael Farris Smith has here with setting the powerful and distinctive tone and mood to Blackwood. I have not experienced anything like it before. It provoked a quiet feeling of bleakness, darkness and hope that whispered to me through the imagery used to the story.

The bleak, dark and sinister evil that hovers over the edges of Red Bluff, Mississippi and the story quietly started to consume me
Diane S ☔
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Readers like myself who have followed this author from the beginning, know what to expect from his novels. Southern, gothic grit, with a dark, dark tone. This book is no exception and it starts out with a bang, well, not a bang exactly, let's just say a shocking event. From there it takes off, and the events build from there. A young man returning for answers, another man, woman and buy who are looking for some kind of life, a place to stop. A young woman, whose mother may have had answers but ...more
In a small southern town that has seen better days, with more people leaving one way, or another than staying, a car with a young boy and his parents end up in Red Bluff, their car breaking down as they were trying to make their way anywhere but where theyd come from. As this journey began, there was a second boy, but the man, not believing himself to be that boys father, and not really wanting either boy, anyway, left him along the way, sending him into a store and leaving before he had a ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
Red Bluff, Mississippi.  A small town dying on the vine, inch by inch.  A homeless family almost makes it into town, but eschews help when it is offered.  A man who lived here as a boy returns after 20 years, deeply scarred on the inside.  Under the cover of darkness, a raggedy ass man shambles his way through town, lips smacking, touching other people's things, moving them around.  There is something the matter with all of them, and there is something very wrong with the place they are in.  ...more
Andrew Smith
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Early on we are introduced to:

- A young boy who witnesses a family tragedy
- A man, a woman and a boy: people with virtually nothing who become stranded in a small town
- A sculptor who collects scrap metal which he intends to turn into strange forms
- A girl who owns a run-down bar and and lives with memories of her fortune teller mother

Who are these people and how are they connected? We are to learn the answers, but slowly as this often harrowing but completely engrossing tale plays out.

Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

In theory Blackwood should have been a slam dunk for me. I mean the damn thing starts with a kid walking in on his dad attempting to hang himself. Now if that aint bleak, I dont know what is and yall know I love bleak. Add in some questionable drifters and a small Southern town with a creepy vibe and this sucker should have been everything I was looking for. So what went wrong???? At first I thought . . . . .

Because this is the
When song writers take pen to paper, they may create lilting lullabies that waft like smoke drifting in your direction. When Michael Farris Smith strums words to page, he sets off a superb Aria encircling your soul initially with its subtle timbre. As the storyline plays out, the mind of the reader is filled bountifully while veering towards the quake of a final crashing crescendo.

Smith reaches back into something fearful. Something fearful that bears no name. It reared its ugly head in the
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars.

Ok, I'm in a reading slump, I admit it. I just can't seem to get moving this year and feel like one big nasty grump who doesn't like anything. So after my last two week long 3 star read, a book almost everyone loved (but me) I decided to go to one of my favorite authors....Michael Farris Smith.

BLACKWOOD is his newest and my sixth MFS novel, with four solid 5 Star and one 4 Star previously, and I almost gave BLACKWOOD 4 Stars just for the super freaking fantastic skull book cover, but 3

Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads, southern
Its his best yet! I loved them all. If you can read the last chapter without a lump in your throat, youre made of harder stuff than me. This whole book MFS stretches you to breaking points over and over. Theres no redemption given until the final chapter. So, when do the days get longer? Probably some correlation with the book release day. You wont want to read this one in the cover of night. I thought William Gay was macabre, well Michael Farris Smith, took some notes and then kicked butt in ...more
In brief - Bleak, dark and SO well written - I have shivers running up my spine.

In full
There is a small town called Red Bluff in Mississippi. This book is set there. It feels as though it is somewhere where nothing much happens and hasn't for sometime. A vagabond family that no one knows anything about and seem a little less than desirable arrives. Colburn comes into the town and it seems as though there may be a history there. The sheriff has become accustomed to not needing to deal with
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I liked the parts of this book that were not overwhelmed with creepy kudzu and ghosts. The author couldnt seem to make up his mind whether this was Southern gothic or a horror story. There is plenty of evil in the townsfolk and its visitors. No need to attribute it to the foliage. Im probably not the right audience for this book. I havent liked this author before and I generally think spooky goings on are just silly. Other people seem to love the book. I received a free copy of this book from ...more
This is such an eerie, bleak book. Perfect for anyone who already loves Southern gothic as a genre, but I wouldnt gravitate toward that usually and I was hooked by this one. Michael Farris Smiths writing is atmospheric and lush and loping. I picked Blackwood up on a whim and read 200 pages that same night almost against my will; theres something magnetic about the setting especially. And I love that Smith constructs morally ambiguous situations where the reader feels complicit, responding to ...more
Roman Clodia
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Farris Smith is a powerful writer with some of Cormac McCarthy's intensity of vision. This book is a tour-de-force that melds the 'return to my hometown' trope with 'small town secrets' and gives the whole thing a kind of existential makeover that is part biblical, part gothic. At the heart, as with MFS's previous books, are people broken, suffering, and desperate, weighted down by burdens of the past and past actions, deliberate acts or failures to act, even tragic accidents that still manifest ...more
Claire Fullerton
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Author Michael Farris Smith is one of those rare writers who uses language as setting. He opens his fifth novel, Blackwood, in the year 1975 with The foulrunning Cadillac arrived chugging into the town limits of Red Bluff, the car having struggled out of the Delta flatlands and into the Mississippi hill country, the ups and downs of the landscape pushing the roughriding vehicle beyond what was left of its capabilities. Off the bat, the reader knows the stage is set for bad luck and hard times ...more
Shellie Zeigler
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Its an amazing skill to be able to transport a reader into a world that is made up of the heartbroken, desperate, and lost..within the first two chapters. Red Bluff, Mississippi is a place that I see all the time when I am driving through the country roads of small towns in the Mississippi Delta. The overabundance of the mysterious kudzu takes your breath away. MFS has created a world where the reader can feel in their bones the weariness and regret of the hardworking people of this region. But ...more
Sid Nuncius
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another very compelling book from Michael Farris Smith. I thought that Desperation Road and The Fighter were both outstanding; Blackwood is equally readable, atmospheric and involving but Im not sure it said quite as much as the previous two.

Blackwood is set in rural Tennessee where a small town has been surrounded and all but taken over by the invasive weed kudzu, which covers and ultimately chokes all other vegetation and any houses which arent constantly defended. Into this town come
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The second book Ive read published by No Exit Press. I was delighted to find them offering this, by an author recommended to me by a friend just recently, so I leapt at the chance and it didnt disappoint.

The atmosphere he creates is overwhelming - sinister and mysterious. Invasive kudzu is smothering the landscape, whole houses left to moulder away under its layers, and we are led to wonder about how it used to be. It is a constant presence in the lives we read about here, blighted by tragedy,
MFS has done it again! I read his first book and was hooked by his writing. Ive read every book, all five stars. I live in the neighboring state of Alabama, I know a few things about kudzu. Southern Gothic storytelling at its best. I was up into the wee hours of the morning finishing this one. MFS Im anxiously awaiting your next book! Im going to reread until the next release.
Perfect cover for this book!!
Dan Radovich
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sweet Mercy! Michael Farris Smith has been creating marvelous Southern fiction for sometime now, and BLACKWOOD takes Southern Gothic over the edge to near brilliance. Eerie. Creepy. Unsettling in parts. You will not leave Red Bluff, MS unscathed when you close the cover. Something is going on in Red Bluff; people are going crazy, committing murder, disappearing and are trying to cope with strange goings on. The group of locals that are searching for twin boys gone missing is at the heart of his ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book moved over me like a locomotive. Every page weighs an emotional ton, yet Smiths prose is so tight that I just kept moving with it. Heartbreaking over and over again. His best yet. ...more
Nic Schuck
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
His best yet. Damn good writing and the story is a page-turner. Characters are McCarthy-like, and hints of Larry Brown shine through as well. Great job Michael Farris Smith.
Laura plantladyreader
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, arcs
This was a quick read for me! At first, I wasnt entirely sure I was hooked, because I wasnt sure where the story was going. We opened with a family who were homeless, doing things that any decent human being would never dream of doing to get ahead. The man within the trio comes off as unstable, and gives the reader an uneasy feeling of what he could do next.

The trio stumble into a lonely little town, where the kudzu vibes are rampant and will take over the town if the people dont keep them at
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dark and sorrowful tale from Smith about the denizens of Red Bluff, a dying town that is trying to hide from its past but can't find any future to move on to. The woods are concealing a mysterious presence that affects three raggedy newcomers whose car breaks down in town with ripple effects everywhere. Smith has the backwoods noir writing style down pat and works wonders with so little. He pulls no punches and isn't afraid to bring on the misery when other authors would back down and give in ...more
Greville Waterman
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved Desperation Road and The Fighter and Michael Farris Smith is a master of his trade.

This is Southern Gothic noir at its best. His description of small town life is beautifully done as is that of the demons that lurk in the woods.

The pace is someones slow but the language is vivid and lush.

A book to savour and treasure.
Ron S
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Literary fiction about a small town artist whose life has been shaped by tragedy, this short tale morphs into a sort of timeless gothic horror tale. Just that vague sentence already seems like too much of a spoiler: this is a book best gone into blindly, so that its many twists and turns can wash over you with shock and incomprehension. Oxford, Mississippi based author Michael Farris Smith, over the course of five books, is proving himself to be a modern day Faulkner, with this meditation on ...more
Kinah Lindsay
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I just read this book and I told the author that I had to take two or three whiskey shots and a tab of Ecstasy to get back into the right frame of mind after reading it. It is a dark, dark Southern Gothic novel where most of the characters have either none or very little redeeming qualities. If you want a book that's going to make you feel "off", this is the one for you. Michael's writing skill and style, as usual, was superb. ( totally kidding about the Ecstasy, by the way. :-) ) #littlebrown ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was pretty taken with this novel. The characterization of Myer and Coburn, the man, and boy, even Celia and Dixon was astounding. The story had a magic realism quality to it that was subdued, but really engaging. Im not totally sure what the deal is with MFS, but I truly love his writing and his style and voice. His novels are down to earth, his characters are images of real people and what they stand for and represent. Its so awesome and makes me want to enter his novel as a character or a ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grit-lit
This is a tough one to review for me because at times I found the narrative hard to follow but at other times I found it absolutely enthralling. Heavily influenced by Cormac McCarthy with touches of Donald Ray Pollack which are great company to be amongst.
When the world breaks you is it ok to break the world, was the question I found myself asking.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this arc available through netgalley.
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Michael Farris Smith is the author of Blackwood (2020), The Fighter, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. His essays have appeared with The New York Times, Bitter ...more

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