Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.
When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
Pub Date: July 26th 2016 | Page Count: 320 pp | Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4.5 Stars | Literary Fiction, Contemporary
“It was a heat the didn’t just melt the tangible things like ice, chocolate, Popsicles. It melted all the intangibles too, Fear, faith, anger and those long-trusted templates of common sense.”
THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING is one of those magnificent books that you will not get out of your head. I’ll be eighty years-old and talking to my grandchildren, probably telling them “Yeah there was this book I read when I was young, it was about this kid who comes to this town with an invitation saying he’s the devil. Yeah, you should read that, kid.”
Tiffany McDaniel presents this carefully crafted experience of a novel that is equal parts beautiful prose, intellectual narrative and thought-provoking. Behind the slightly humorous writing hides this dark undertone that merges incredibly with the story. We meet Fielding Bliss at the age of 84, he reminisces about the summer of 1984, when a black boy in overalls and covered in bruises enters his life, holding a piece of paper where his father invites him to Breathed, Ohio. He claims to be the devil and wishes to go by the name Sal.
“I think of all the devils I’ve seen in my long life. I know now how brief the innocent, how permanent the wicked.”
Throughout the novel we found ourselves jumping back and forth as Fielding tells his different life experiences and how each one was affected by what happened on that summer all those years ago. It does not go on the easy route, dividing chapters in past and present, no. It is a continuous storytelling of many facets of Fielding’s life, the shifts between then and now are so smooth and well thought-out on a mesmerizing level.
It was amazing how every character had their own particular story, it made it all so much more real when you know a character has a reason for behaving the way they do, what drives them and what’s their part in all this mess. It was kind of substantial for me and the novel how each and every one had a distinctive voice and that it wasn’t just about Fielding and Sal but about an entire racist, homophobic and hysterical community.
“God is suffering’s biggest spectator.”
I need to read more books like this. You know that feeling when a book is trying to tell you something but you’re not quite sure what it is, and that’s fascinating because it’s making you think and dig deeper, and it does not stop when you’re done because you still need to figure out some shit by yourself? That’s how I felt during and after THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING. You’ll wonder and wonder and wonder, and it is not inherently bad, because that was the intention; for me at least.
I know I’ll re-read this in the future, I’ve always had a weakness for books that depict discrimination and intolerance, books that are not scared to show how terrible human beings can be when driven by just hate. Whether you cry or throw away your book across the room out of exasperation, one thing is for sure, this book will make you feel.
Thank you to the author who kindly provided an ARC in exchange for an honest review
About The Author
An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist. The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.
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