Coiled in the Heart by Scott Elliott

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From a bold new Southern voice, a graceful and provocative love story born of guilt and atonement.

One day, seven-year-old Tobia Caldwell-the last in a line of proud, if declining, Southern aristocrats-discovers a cottonmouth snake in a creek on the family's shrinking estate. Soon afterward, he meets Ben Wilson, a boy his age, who has moved into one of the first houses in a subdivision going up on what used to be Caldwell land. Imagining he is defending himself and his creek against a bully and an intruder, Tobia leads Ben into a deadly encounter with the cottonmouth and discovers, with Ben's twin sister, Merritt, the boy's lifeless body facedown in the creek.

Years later, Tobia reencounters Merritt-and the bond be-tween them, forged out of their first, immediate experience of death, is electric. As he falls in love with her, Tobia must struggle with the guilty secret of his childhood, and, ultimately, come to terms with the truth of his past.

Smart, sophisticated, and luminous, Coiled in the Heart wrestles with the integration of the old and the new, while exploring the force of love; the eccentricities of family; the power of guilt; and the cumbersome, though stabilizing, weight of the past.

About Scott Elliott

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Scott Elliott is enrolled in the University of Houston's doctoral program in English literature and creative writing.
Published July 28, 2003 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. 293 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Religion & Spirituality, Arts & Photography. Fiction

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The prose is exquisite, particularly whenever Elliott analyzes Tobia’s distracted fascination with the menacing creatures that are both agents of, and metaphors for, his own corruption and duplicity (“I loved the snakes darkly”).

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Publishers Weekly

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Later, he decides against law school and devotes himself obsessively to the study of herpetology, as a partial gesture of redemption, and Merritt and Tobia's relationship hits a series of rough patches, mainly stemming from Tobia's guilt.

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