The Summer That Melted Everything
By Tiffany McDaniel
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984:
the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio.
The year he became friends with the devil.
When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes an invitation to the devil to come to the country town of Breathed, Ohio, nobody quite expected that he would turn up. They especially didn’t expect him to turn up a tattered and bruised thirteen-year-old boy.
Fielding, the son of Autopsy, finds the boy outside the courthouse and brings him home, and he is welcomed into the Bliss family. The Blisses believe the boy, who calls himself Sal, is a runaway from a nearby farm town. Then, as a series of strange incidents implicate Sal — and riled by the feverish heatwave baking the town from the inside out — there are some around town who start to believe that maybe Sal is exactly who he claims to be.
But whether he’s a traumatised child or the devil incarnate, Sal is certainly one strange fruit: he talks in riddles, his uncanny knowledge and understanding reaches far outside the realm of a normal child — and ultimately his eerily affecting stories of Heaven, Hell, and earth will mesmerise and enflame the entire town.
Devastatingly beautiful, The Summer That Melted Everything is a captivating story about community, redemption, and the dark places where evil really lies.
It seems appropriate to be reviewing a book titled The Summer That Melted Everything as I sit here drenched in our living room watching the thermostat slowly crawl towards 90. My only complaint would be the obvious fact that it is way too hot and that I postponed reading this book for way too long. I did have the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany. You can check that out here.
Read the synopsis and then read the book. I am not going to spend my time dissecting and recapping the plot (because I am recommending this to all) but rather explaining to you why this unexpected gem spoke to my most inner core not only as a reader but as someone who grew up in the surrounding area of which this story unfolds.
“A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the best, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.”
It is hard to narrow down the success of The Summer The Melted Everything to one specific attribute, but if I were challenged to do so, I would give credit to its endearing and quirky cast of characters. Told from 13 yr old Fielding Bliss’s perspective, we are introduced to an ensemble that ranges from a young boy Sal who claims to be the devil to eccentric, often close-minded citizens of the town. I soon discovered a solid affection for Fielding and each in their own personal way. They are flawed, facing internal struggles and present a range of moral questions and dilemmas. They also feel viable and familiar. I found that it was easy to attach characteristics of each to my own acquaintances and family.
“This was what law and order looked like in Breathed. A house with a termite problem that made the gray boards like stewed wood.”
The setting of Breathed is based upon the area in which I grew up, Southern Ohio. And being a product of the 80s, I found myself immediately immersed into a world and summer that I knew. Every page offered recognizable aspects ranging from surroundings and dialogue to the behavior and mannerisms of the town folk. The author spent her childhood summer’s in Southeastern Ohio and it is evidenced by her knowledge and presentation of each. The result is an enveloping and almost tangible experience that whisked me back to my own summer days.
McDaniel delivers her story with a prose that is lyrical and jarring at the same time. Carrying the reader through a triumphantly emotional tale that evokes an incredible range of feelings and questions. The entire process is highly impactful and heart-wrenching yet unfolds with tremendous ease due to her seamless pacing and narration.
“All love leads to cannibalism. I know that now. Sooner or later, our hearts will devour, if not the object of our affections, our very selves.”
The Summer That Melted Everything is an incredible exploration of humanity’s ugliness presented in perhaps the most stunning fashion I have ever encountered. Tiffany McDaniel addresses themes that include racism, a failing legal system, homophobia, the aids epidemic and religion in a poetic and nostalgic manner. With an authentic voice, she hands the reader the necessary elements of the familiar, quickly establishing a successfully strong message that speaks resolutely to the heart of good versus evil and the battle against intolerance.
TW: Includes themes and content that address racism, homophobia, violence, suicide and intolerance.
*I was gifted a copy of this book from the author. The above review is my own, honest and unbiased opinion.
Pairs beautifully with an iced cold sweetened black tea and twist of lemon.
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