The devil comes to Ohio in Tiffany McDaniel's breathtaking and heartbreaking literary debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything.
*Winner of The Guardian's 2016 "Not the Booker" Prize and the Ohioana Readers' Choice Award
*Goodreads Choice Award nominee for "Best Fiction" and "Best Debut"
“A wonderfully original, profoundly unsettling, deeply moving novel that delivers both the shock of fully realized reality and the deep resonance of parable...A remarkable debut.”
Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
“A haunting Appalachian Gothic novel that calls into question the nature of good and evil.” Akron Beacon Journal
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 temperature 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 wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
TIFFANY MCDANIEL is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. The Summer That Melted Everything is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Summer that Melted Everything
By Tiffany McDaniel
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Tiffany McDaniel
All rights reserved.
Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World
— MILTON, PARADISE LOST 1:1–3
The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. It should've been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil's name, and when's the last time you left home without yours?
It was a heat that didn't just melt tangible things like ice, chocolate, Popsicles. It melted all the intangibles too. Fear, faith, anger, and those long-trusted templates of common sense. It melted lives as well, leaving futures to be slung with the dirt of the gravedigger's shovel.
I was thirteen when it all happened. An age that saw me both overwhelmed and altered by life in a way I'd never been before. I haven't been thirteen in a long time. If I were a man who still celebrated his birthday, there would be eighty-four flames flickering above the cake, above this life and its frightening genius, its inescapable tragedy, its summer of teeth that opened wide and consumed the little universe we called Breathed, Ohio.
I will say that 1984 was a year that understood how to make history. Apple launched its Macintosh computer for the masses, two astronauts walked the stars like gods, and singer Marvin Gaye, who sang about how sweet it was to be loved, was shot through the heart and killed by his father.
In May of that year, a group of scientists published their research in a scientific journal, revealing how they had isolated and identified a retrovirus that would come to be called HIV. They confidently concluded in their papers that HIV was responsible for the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS, as the nightmares say.
Yes, 1984 was a year about news. It was the year Michael Jackson would burn for Pepsi, and the Bubble Boy of Houston, Texas, would come out of his plastic prison, be touched by his mother for the very first time, and moments later die at just twelve years of age.
Overall, the 1980s would prove industrious years for the devil. It was a time you couldn't just quit the horns. Satanic cult hysteria was at its height, and it stood tall. Fear was a square that decade so it could fit into our homes better, into our neat little four-cornered lives.
If a carton of milk turned over, the devil did it. If a kid showed bruises, he'd be put in therapy immediately to confess how his own parents had molested him around a bonfire while wearing black robes.
Look no further than the McMartin Preschool investigation, which started in '84 and ended with fantastical allegations of children being flushed down toilets and abused by Chuck Norris. While these allegations eventually would be flushed down the toilet themselves, that time of panic would always be remembered as the moment when the bright, bright stars could not save the dark, dark sky.
Breathed's own devil would come differently. The man who invited him was my father, Autopsy Bliss. Autopsy is an acutely strange name for a man to have, but his mother was an acutely strange woman. Even more, she was an acutely strange religious woman who used the Bible as a stethoscope to hear the pulse of the devil in the world around her.
The sounds could be anything: The wind knocking over a tin can. The clicking of rain on the windowpane. The erratic heartbeat of a jogger passing by.
Sometimes the things we believe we hear are really just our own shifting needs. Grandmother needed to hear the spook of the snake so she could better believe it actually existed.
She was a determined woman who pickled lemons, knew her way around a tool box, and raised a son by herself, all while earning a degree in ancient studies. She had the ancients in mind when she named her son.
She would say, "The word autopsy is a relative of the word autopsia, which in the ancient vernacular of the Greeks means to see for oneself. In the amphitheater of the great beyond, we all do our own autopsies. These self-imposed autopsies are done not on the physical body of our being but on the spirit of it. We call these ultimate examinations the autopsy of the soul."
After the summer ended, I asked my father why he had invited the devil.
"Because I wanted to see for myself," he answered with the definition of his name, his words doing their best to swerve his tears lest they be drowned on impact. "To see for myself."
Growing up, my father was the wood in his mother's lathe, held in place and carefully shaped over the years by her faith. When he was thirteen, his edges nearly smoothed, the lathe suddenly stopped turning, all because his mother slipped on the linoleum floor in their kitchen and fell backward with no parachute.
The bruises would come to look like pale plums on her flesh. And while not one bone had been broken, a spiritual break did occur.
As Dad helped her to her feet, she let go of a moan she'd been holding. Then, in a giddy woe, she dropped her knees back to the linoleum.
"He wasn't there," she cried.
"Who wasn't there?" Dad asked, her shaking contagious to him.
"As I was falling, I reached out my hand." She made again the gesture of that very thing. "He didn't grab it."
"I tried, Momma."
"Yes." She cupped his cheeks in her clammy palms. "But God didn't. I realize now we're all alone, kiddo."
She took the crucifixes off the walls, buried her Bible in the infant section of the cemetery, and never again poured her knees down to the ground in prayer. Her faith was a sudden and complete loss. Dad still had the fumes of his faith left, and in those fumes, he found himself one day walking into the courthouse, where his mother was getting reprimanded by the judge for unabashedly vandalizing the church — the second time.
While Dad waited outside her courtroom, he heard voices a few doors down. He went in and sat through the trial of a man accused of pulling out a shotgun at the coin laundry, leaving bloodstains that couldn't be washed out.
To Dad that man was the devil emerged and the courtroom was God's filter removing that emergence from society. As he stood there, Dad could see tiny breaks in the courtroom wall. The holes of a net through which a bright, warm light shone, pure and glorious. It was a light that made him want to stand and shout Amen until he was hoarse.
While his soul had before paced back and forth from doubt to belief, on that day in the courtroom, his soul settled on believing. If not in everything else, then at least in that filter, that instrument of purity. And the handler of that filter, in Dad's eyes, the person who made sure everything went the very best of ways, was the prosecutor. The one responsible for making sure the devils of the world are trapped by the filter.
Dad sat there in the courtroom, hands shaking, his feet swinging just above the floor they were too short to reach. When the guilty verdict came, he joined in the applause as he smelled a whiff of bleach that he associated not with the janitor in the hallway but rather with the filth trapped by the filter and the world being cleaner for it.
The courtroom emptied until only Dad and the prosecutor remained.
Dad sat on the bench, wide-eyed and waiting.
"So you are who I heard." The prosecutor's voice was like a pristine preaching to Dad.
"How could you have heard me, sir?" Dad asked in pure awe.
"You were so loud."
"But, sir, I didn't say a dang thing."
The prosecutor laughed like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard. "And in that silence, you said it all. Why, you were as loud as shine on chrome, bright and boisterous in that silent gleam. And such loud boys will grow to be loud men who are meant to be in the courtroom, but never — no, not ever — as the ones in handcuffs."
That was the moment Dad knew he himself would become a handler of the filter. And while his mother never regained her faith, he kept his in the courtroom and in the trials of humanity and, most important, in that filter.
They said he was one of the best prosecuting attorneys the state had ever seen. Yet there was something unsettled about my father. Handling the filter did not prove to be an exact science. Many times after winning a case, he would escape from the applause and congratulatory pats on the back to come home and sit quietly with his eyes squinted. That was how you knew he was thinking. Squinted eyes, arms folded, legs crossed.
It was on one such night that he uncrossed his legs, unfolded his arms, and widened his eyes, in that order. Then he stood, rather certain as he grabbed a pen and a piece of paper. He began to write what would end up being an invitation to the devil.
It was the first day of summer when that invitation was published in our town's newspaper, The Breathanian. We were eating breakfast, and Mom had laid the paper in the middle of the table. With morning milk dribbling down our chins, we stared at the invitation, which had made the front page. Mom told Dad he was too audacious for his own good. She was right. Even the atheists had to admit it took a fearless man to audition the existence of the Prince of Darkness.
I still have that invitation around here somewhere. Everything seems so piled up nowadays. Hills all around me, from the soft mounds of laundry to the dishes in the sink. The trash pile is already waisthigh. I walk through these fields of empty frozen dinner trays and beer bottles the way I used to walk through fields of tall grass and wildflowers.
An old man living alone is no keeper of elegance. The outside world is no help. I keep getting these coupons for hearing aids. They send them in gray envelopes that pile like storm clouds on my table. Thunder, thunder, boom, boom, and there the invitation is under it all, like a bolt of lightning from the sky.
Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,
I cordially invite you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith, Autopsy Bliss
I never thought we'd get an answer to that invitation. At the time, I wasn't even sure I believed in God or His antonym. If I had come upon a yard sale selling what was purported to be the true Veil of Veronica beside a bent Hula-Hoop, well, I was the type of boy who would have bought the Hula-Hoop, even if the veil was free.
If the devil was going to come, I expected to see the myth of him. A demon with an asphalt shine. He'd be fury. A chill. A bad cough. Cujo at the car window, a ticket at the Creepshow booth, a leap into the depth of night.
I imagined him with reptilian skin in a suit whose burning lapel set off fire alarms. His fingernails sharp as shark teeth and cannibals in ten different ways. Snakes on him like tar. Flies buzzing around him like an odd sense of humor. There would be hooves, horns, pitchforks. Maybe a goatee.
This is what I thought he'd be. A spectacular fright. I was wrong. I had made the mistake of hearing the word devil and immediately imagined horns. But did you know that in Wisconsin, there is a lake, a wondrous lake, called Devil? In Wyoming, there is a magnificent intrusion of rock named after the same. There is even a most spectacular breed of praying mantis known as Devil's Flower. And a flower, in the genus Crocosmia, known simply as Lucifer.
Why, upon hearing the word devil, did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see a lake? A flower growing by that lake? A mantis praying on the very top of a rock?
A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower's turn to own the name.CHAPTER 2
... a flower which once
in Paradise, fast by the Tree of Life,
Began to bloom
— MILTON, PARADISE LOST 3:353–355
I once heard someone refer to Breathed as the scar of the paradise we lost. So it was in many ways, a place with a perfect wound just below the surface.
It was a resting in the southern low of Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where each porch had an orchard of small talk and rocking chairs, where cigarette tongues flapped over glasses of lemonade. They said the wooded hills were the fence God Himself built for us. Hills I always thought were the busiest hills in all the world. Busy rising and rolling and surrounding.
One hill could be a pine grove, quick to height and like steeples of the original church. While on another hill, you'd find meadows where grapevines hung on the edges like fallen telephone wires you could swing on with the sparks.
Sandstone was as mountain as the hills got. The sandstone rocks all seemed to remind folks of something, and so were given names like the Grinning Ass, Slain Turtle, and Betting Dragon. You could see images in any of the rock formations. More than that, you could find fossils of the past residents, like lizards and them bugs with all those ridges on the sides.
The rocks were especially outstanding on the sides of the hills where they would ledge out and cliff off with mossy turns. The trees would grow out on those ledges, their roots dangling between the crevices of rock. We all called them roots Praying Snakes. There was just something about the way they slithered across the rocks and dangled like they had a chance.
Summer in Breathed was my favorite season of all. Nothing but barefoot boys and grass-stained girls flowering beneath the trees. My favorite summer sight was those trees. Whether up in the hills or down around the houses, trees were Breathed. Some were old, and they squatted, clothed in heavy moss and time like they were enduring Neanderthals who should not still exist. Others were timelessly modern, smooth and lean and familiars to twine.
Trees were Breathed, but so were the factories — plenty of factories making everything from clothespins to camping tents. There was a coal mine at the eastern side of town and a rock quarry at the western. Fishing and swimming and baptisms could be had in the wide and deep Breathed River that eventually met up with the Ohio and from there the great Mississippi with all its fine strength and slipping song.
If you drove anywhere or walked anywhere in Breathed, you did so on lanes. Never streets, never roads, but dirt-laid lanes that each had their own story. Paved roads were something other towns did. Breathed hung onto its dirt, in more ways than one. Not even Main Lane, the main artery of the town, had been paved, though it was lined with trees and brick sidewalks that fed into brick buildings.
From Main Lane, the town unfurled into lanes of houses, and eventually lanes of farms, the farther out you got. Breathed was the combination of flower and weed, of the overgrown and the mowed. It was Appalachian country, as only Southern Ohio can be, and it was beautiful as a sunbeam in waist-high grass.
It was a good town for a boy to have come of age in. There was a small movie theater, where I had my first kiss while E.T. flew in front of the moon, and a pizza parlor with arcade games I would play until my eyes hurt from the bright, flashing screens. Most days, though, were spent on the tire swing over the river or tossing a baseball back and forth with my brother. In these moments, the gild receded and life was its most naked bliss.
What I've just described is the town of my heart, not necessarily the town itself, which had an underbelly that knew how to be of mood with the mud. Just as in every other small town and big city, the women cried and the men knew how to shout. Dogs were beat, children too. There weren't always mothers to bloom identical to the rose, and more often than not, there was no picket fence to paint.
Yes, Breathed was the scar of paradise lost, and beneath the flour-and-butter drawl, there was the town's own sort of sibilant hiss on the wind, which made you quiet and made you sense snakes.
They say I was the first one in all of Breathed to see him. I always wondered about that. If maybe I wasn't the first one to see him, but just the first one to stop.
As I walked, I could hear the song "Cruel Summer" blaring from a boom box from the open windows of a house that smelled like rhubarb pie and Aqua Net. That was the strange collision of the decade and our small town. A crash of gingham curtains and spandex miniskirts.
Excerpted from The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel. Copyright © 2016 Tiffany McDaniel. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Absolutely amazing! It's not a light read, it's very emotional and at times heartbreaking, but so worth it!
“As we walked home, I knew from far away the trees would’ve looked nice, the grass would’ve looked green, and we would’ve looked like just a couple of boys walking home, armed with Midwest love and Bible Belt morals…. But up close, the trees were scorched, the grass was dead, and the boys were on the verge of tears with the belts of those morals tightened around their necks, threatening to hang them if they dared step off the stool of masculinity” The Summer That Melted Everything is the first novel by American author, Tiffany McDaniel. Fielding is an old man now, but the summer of 1984 is one he can never forget. It was hot, blisteringly hot, and his father, prosecutor, Autopsy Bliss had published an invitation to the devil: “It got me thinking about all the things we are so certain about. Like the devil. I put that invitation in the newspaper, and I thought the devil will show, and he will have a pitchfork and horns and be red all over. He’ll be mean and cruel and evil…” When Sal, a thirteen-year-old black boy arrives in Breathed, Ohio, he’s not what anyone imagined the devil would be. Sal is different: he seems to know things he shouldn’t, and has a wisdom beyond his years. Sal’s appearance somehow seems to be a catalyst for major change in the lives of Fielding’s family and their neighbours. Or is it just the inescapable heat? No one in Breathed will ever be the same. McDaniel prefaces each chapter with a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost. At the beginning of many chapters, the elderly Fielding talks about his present life before returning to the events of that fateful summer. McDaniel’s characters are quirky but appealing (eg Stella Bliss has ombrophobia and lives life indoors, creating countries in the rooms like Will Cardiel’s mother Diane in Michael Christie’s If I Fall, If I Die). McDaniel gives the reader a plausible plot cloaked in utterly gorgeous evocative prose: “In his earthy voice, his prayers sounded like the haymaking I heard one time when passing a field in harvest. The cling clang of sharpening the scythe’s blade. The sharp scythe swiping and cutting the grass in crunching whooshes. The rake coming softly but scratchy as the cut grass is gathered and rolled into bales. Bales to be kept back and saved in the very seconds that had made them” is one example. “I knew what he had done was rubbing at him like little grains of sand scraping his bone.... I went up to my room, sat on the edge of my bed, feeling on the edge myself. The sadness like a motor, idling inside me. Idling still. Sometimes vroom vroom. But never off” is another. McDaniel’s coming-of-age tale features racial prejudice, homophobia, a serial killer, guilt, sadness and mass hysteria. While there is humour, there is also a big dose of heartache, and even the most cynical reader will find their eyes filling and a lump forming in the throat. This is a brilliant debut novel from an author to watch.
I am so broken-hearted by this book. It absolutely wowed me and wrecked me. Tiffany McDaniel is an incredibly skilled writer. Not only did the plot have me hooked from the beginning, but so did the prose. It was beautifully written which made the events of The Summer That Melted Everything that much more tragic. The best part of this book was its characters. McDaniel seems to be an expert at character creation and development. Each character from Fielding to Sal to Grayson Elohim were human and developed as humans do. They were flawed and beautiful and (most) were lovable. I felt for each character, even the true devil of this story (Until the end that is. I am happy about what happened to them). I think my favorite characters were the Bliss family. They were a quirky family, but one that I wanted to be a part of. Until the summer of 1984 and even throughout it, there was so much love in that family. The relationship between Fielding and Grand reminded me a bit of the relationship I had with my younger sister. McDaniel's characters came to life on the pages of this book. Their struggles came to life. Another McDaniel excelled at was creating humanity within her pages. Each of the character's struggles (including side characters) and how they dealt with it was so human. The topical issues addressed in her book were incredibly human. McDaniel dealt with topics that humans still struggle with today. Homophobia, mob mentality, the criminal justice system, and racism. By including these issues, but not hitting you over the head with it, McDaniel made her book relevant in 1984 and today. She made me sit and think about how the citizens of Breathed dealt with these issues and how the citizens of America today are handling it. The Summer that Melted Everything really made me sit and think about what is means to be a good human in the face of these issues. The ending was heartbreaking and disturbing and as much as I wanted to say, "That wouldn't happen in 1984, let alone 2017..." they do happen. Events as disturbing as the end of this book did happen in 1984 and do happen today. I think how rooted in truth this book was is what made it so much more heartbreaking. Each chapter revealed more and more about the characters struggles of what is bad and good, but the ending revealed the most about what humanity is capable of. All aspects of the ending shocked me, but one in particular completely broke me. I had truly come to love the Bliss family and having them torn apart in the way they were tore my heart apart. The Summer that Melted Everything is cocompelling and strong and a must-read. In today's current climate it is incredibly timely and so important. It is definitely one of the better books I've read this year. It is definitely heavy and heartbreaking, but as a reader and as a human, everyone should pick up this book. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Tiffany McDaniel for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am so glad I had the experience of reading this book.
Head to my blog to read the excerpt, review with quotes, and author Q & A! https://darquedreamerreads.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/the-summer-that-melted-everything-by-tiffany-mcdaniel-excerpt-review-and-author-q-a/ Would you know the devil if you looked him in the eyes? The Summer That Melted Everything will make you question what you know of good and evil. This one is a bold story reminding us of the devil inside. McDaniel brings us a truly moving, frightening, lyrical story of the human condition and the effects of prejudice and racism. The Plot: The Summer of 1984 is the summer that melted everything in Breathed, Ohio. Local prosecutor, Autopsy Bliss, writes an invitation to the devil in the newspaper. Battered and bruised, thirteen-year-old Sal is the one who answers. Claiming to be the devil, Sal begins to spread fear and doubt through town. With the extreme heat, and the curious accidents that begin to happen, neighbors become riled up, facing personal, and physical demons. The Summer of 1984 is the summer that melted everything and changed Breathed, Ohio in catastrophic ways. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started the book. I was surprised by the intensity and raw beauty of the story. McDaniel took a story of hate and transformed it in to something elegantly moral and thought provoking. And it is indeed a story of hate, involving prejudice and racism. I felt the connection between the backward thinking of this town and time and current events still happening today. I was deeply moved by the morals of the story: Do not judge a book by its cover; Love, not hate; Racism and prejudice kill; Cherish your family. Unexpected heat and a dark heart can take control of the weak minded in terrifying ways. One of the main things I loved about this book and the writing style was that I truly felt like I was in the mind of Fielding Bliss. I felt what he felt, and experienced his thoughts and reactions to what was happening around him. I loved that the imagery used allowed me to fully picture the town and the people. And, the characters were so well written with such depth and personality. Sal was my favorite character. He was such a mystery because, in claiming to be the devil, you expect him to be evil incarnate. I was expecting Damien from The Omen. What we got was so much more. To go in to detail would be to give massive spoilers away, so all I can say is that he is the biggest lesson of all to the town, and to Fielding. Fielding was a well written main character. As our narrator, we got to witness firsthand the horrors of the story and the mental effects he experienced. Fielding was deeply changed by that summer. He had embodied childish innocence and the act of coming of age surrounded by hate. His only salvation was Sal and his brother Grand. Grand was the character I felt most sorry for. He experienced what a lot of teens experience today. He was a kind, caring character and he was an awesome big brother to Fielding. He had moments of feeling lost and confused and turned to someone who he felt was like him. In making this decision, he brought the biggest mistake to his life, which led to a downward spiral for the family and the violent events to follow. I wish I could go in to more detail, but I would like to leave this spoiler free. I would most definitely read this again and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a moral, heartbreaking, slow burn of a story. I would give a mild warning for mature, emotional content, profan
This was getting lots of praise from a few youtube reviewers. So after hearing what they had to say I thought I would love this book. But after 170 pages read I just could not finish this book. I was so bored and actually forced myself to read those 170 pages
I had the privilege of reading this book with my book club and Skyping with the author. What an experience. As a word nerd, I found Tiffany's writing poetic, descriptive and very thought provoking. This book has deep meaning through out that made me highlight the book like my Bible. I loved it. It's about a man named Autopsy Bliss who invites the Devil to the town of Breathed, OH through an article in the local paper. Soon a strange boy comes to town claiming to be just that, his name is Sal, a combination of Satin and Lucifer. After his arrival, strange things start happening in Breathed, including the heat. Beautiful things happen, but as you know, some people only see the bad and as humans we all need someone to blame. Is Sal the Devil or just a little boy with a very sad past. This book hits on so many issues, racism, religion, homosexuality, agoraphobia, family, love, forgiveness. I challenge you to read this thought provoking debut novel by Tiffany McDaniel. I am so glad I visited Breathed, OH and I hope to return there someday. First sentence: The heat came with the Devil. Last sentence: That was the puddle of my innocence, the splashes still falling in the past as they are still falling now, as they will continue to fall for that eternal always, in a pooling water, ferrying me back.
Fielding Bliss narrates this story in present day reminiscing on memories and certain flashbacks. He speaks about the events and issues that were relevant set in 1984 like the HIV epidemic, the death of Marvin Gaye, the bubble boy, and the event of Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire while filming a Pepsi commercial. Accuracy is always the best when writing a fiction novel. This depiction made readers feel as if they have lived or are reliving the 80’s. Each chapter begins with quotes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. These quotes correlate with the subject matter that’s included in the chapters. For those unfamiliar with Paradise Lost, the first character introduced is Satan. The fact that every chapter introduces you to a different character makes the story even more inviting. McDaniel’s character structure is strong and well-articulated bringing them to life and telling their truths as honestly as she can. To read the rest of my review and what I wrote about reading this book, head here http://bondingoverbindings.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-summer-that-melted-everything-by.html https://bondingoverbindings.blogspot.com/2016/09/my-pop-culture-analysis-paper-on-summer.html
... See those three dots right there? That is how I felt through the majority of the book. I just didn't know what to say or think about what was going on throughout the story. And now that I am finished, I still don't. I am going to try my best to put to words some of my feelings and thoughts for you, but I know already that no matter what I put down here it will never be able to truly express my feelings for The Summer That Melted Everything. The main premise of The Summer That Melted Everything is that Autopsy Bliss took it upon himself to invite the Devil to his town of Breathed. And to the surprise of everyone, the Devil decided to accept his invitation and show up in the form of a 13 year old African American boy who decides to go by the name of Sal. Also, at the same time that Sal shows up, the town is hit by one of the worst heat waves it has ever suffered from. The Summer That Melted Everything is told from the perspective of Fielding Bliss, the younger of Autopsy Bliss' two sons. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to follow along with Fielding's narrative, especially until you get used to it. He alternates between when he is reflecting back to that summer and to the old man he now is. And occasionally he sprinkles in things that happened in his life between the two. There is the story that The Summer That Melted Everything puts forth with its words. And that story is intense and heartbreaking in and of itself. However, this is the type of story where everything is a symbol for something else. And when you realized even just a little bit of what each thing is truly representing, you then see how deep this story goes. And it hurts. It breaks you a little bit more every few pages. This is not a lighthearted read by any means. The Summer That Melted Everything probably touches upon every single hard topic there is out there - race, religion, sexuality, abuse....etc. And each bit you read about hurts so much. Also, I feel I should warn you - there is language in this book. However, it is more than just the F bomb. The "N" word is used a few times. The Summer That Melted Everything is a book that will either make you very angry or you will love it. There is no middle ground with it. You will feel things. A lot of things. And most of what you feel will not be happy. You will hurt, you will cry, you will find yourself needing to take a lot of breaks while reading. This is one that to truly grasp everything that it is trying to tell you, that you will need to read it more than once. My Rating 5 Stars Find more of my reviews here: http://readingwithcupcakes.blogspot.com This review is based on an eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
In Tiffany McDaniel's debut novel: The Summer that Melted Everything, the consequences of ignorance and hatred are IN YOUR FACE and punch you right in the gut. In that respect, every freaking person on Earth needs to read this book. Why do some people hate others who are different from them? Fear, plain and simple. Weak, selfish, and judgmental cowards who are too scared to open their minds and hearts to something different from what they know and then do unspeakable things to minimize their perceived threat. The result? Good people end up dead, never to breathe another breath or love another day. Makes my soul ache at how preventable it all is. OK, so that’s why all the five stars. That and the magical writing. Ms. McDaniel really can write, I’ll give her that – the tone, use of metaphors, and what felt like hundreds of highlight-worthy quotes were perfect for the setting, culture, and theme. So why didn’t my rating reach a shiny five stars along with everyone else? Unfortunately, the entire experience felt way too long. I realize that 320 pages (11 ½ hours via audio) is average, probably below average actually, but the progression of the actual storyline felt like it trickled along in my opinion (to the point I started routinely checking how much of the audiobook was left) and this aspect raised a roadblock for me. As a result, I am certain I didn’t absorb nearly as much emotion as I would have liked, thus my initial three star rating. Because I am a flawed human, this could have been (and probably was) a case of “moody Monday” so I re-read the last 1/3 the next day (because this is the part that would make a normal person a blubbering mess) and yes, I felt my heartstrings tense up and the tears begin to collect. They didn’t quite make it out and down my cheeks but it’s OK. I know I was open enough to receive the emotion this time around. I learned a lesson: If you need a break from reading, take one. If a book just isn’t doing it for you, stop and try again another time. It’s OK. There are a million and one books on all of our TBR lists but if we just skate through them, we might pass right by the true gift of reading: Life-changing perspective that can transform us all into better human beings. The Summer that Melted Everything has the potential to do just that for its readers. Read it. Open your heart and help stop the hate. My favorite quote: "You can tell a lot about a man by what he does with a snake… A snake that could harm you, you don't have much choice to kill. You wouldn't be able to leave a cobra in your sock drawer. But a snake that is no threat will greatly define the man who decides to kill it anyways."
"The Summer that Melted Everything" is a newly released novel by debut author Tiffany McDaniel. She has stepped into the literary arena with a lyrical and powerful novel about good, evil, and the devil himself. "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." McDaniel's writing is beautiful. Never before have I highlighted so many quotes in a novel. To me, the following passage hints perfectly at the story you will read, and it glimpses her exquisite writing: "But did you know that in Wisconsin, there is a like, a wondrous lake, called the Devil? In Wyoming, there is a magnificent intrusion of rock named after the same. There is even a most spectacular breed of praying mantis known as the devil's flower. And a flower, in the genus Crocosmia, known simply as Lucifer. Why, upon hearing the world devil, did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see a lake? A flower growing by that lake? A mantis praying on the very top of a rock? A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower's turn to own the name." This is gut-wrenching tale of prejudice, sorrow, betrayal, and hope. You will be transported to Breathed, Ohio in the mid-80's during the most sweltering months of summer. In that unbearable heat you'll be forced to bear witness to the full spectrum of human behavior: from the most horrific crimes to the greatest feats of kindness. Unfortunately, literary fiction is not my favorite genre (simply because it's using a lot more words to move the plot forward). If I enjoyed it more, I think that this book would have easily have made its way to my all-time favorites. I can say with certainty that it is one of my favorite literary novels that I've read. The setting is vivid, the characters step off of the page, and the writing is simply perfect. This book is as sticky as skin in the Ohio heat of 1984, and I'm still pulling pieces of this story off of me. It's a novel I'm unlikely to forget. "She was an acutely strange religious woman who used the Bible as a stethoscope to hear the pulse of the devil in the world around her." "But up close, the trees were scorched, the grass was dead, and the boys were on the verge of tears with the belts of those morals tightened around their necks, threatening to hang them if they dared step off the stool of masculinity." Final rating: 3.5/5 stars. I would highly recommend this novel to any lover of literary fiction.
The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel explores the loss of innocence in a sleepy Ohio town. Fielding Bliss is a kid growing up in Breathed, Ohio. His dad is a judge, and has been struggling with the ethical implications of his role. When he started his career, he saw everything in black and white, and saw himself as an agent of justice and ultimately God's will, but slowly he realizes that despite his best efforts, sometimes even he can get it wrong and condemn the innocent. Fielding's dad posts an add in a local newspaper inviting Satan himself to come to town. He didn't expect to receive an answer, and certainly not in the form of a thirteen-year-old black boy named Sal. Because he has nowhere else to go, Fielding's family takes him in. The entire town of Bliss is suspicious of Sal, but he quickly wins over some friends, beginning with Fielding. He also makes enemies as the residents of Bliss start to blame Sal for everything that goes wrong. They're unable to accept that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and they see in Sal a convenient scapegoat. The tension builds throughout the novel until it comes to its ultimate tragic conclusion. The Summer That Melted Everything starts out as magical realism. Sal claims to be the devil, and he has a host of stories and parables that seem pretty convincing. But as the story progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that Sal is just a kid who's had an extremely difficult life. He feels like the devil, because he understands what it's like to be cast out. But he's also wise and kind and helps heal the broken. The real devil doesn't have horns and a tail, it's the hatred and mistrust and resentment that are present in ordinary people and cause them to do terrible things. When the story starts to get real, it does so in a hard way. Through Fielding's eyes, we go from the innocence of youth to tough social issues like racism, domestic violence, and AIDS. We see Fielding as a child, and we also see him as a bitter old man who is haunted by the past and lives in his own personal hell. There's no salvation in this story. And to me, the scariest part of The Summer That Melted Everything isn't just my sadness and horror at the story's ending, but the fact that I'm afraid that we haven't progressed enough as a society since then. The story's antagonist, Elohim, preys on people's fears and amplifies their superstition. He fosters a mob mentality that grows to an unstoppable force. And despite the best efforts of good and honorable people like Fielding's father, there's nothing that can be done to stop it until the madness has run it's course and people look back at it and themselves in horror. And the worst part is that as a reader you can see it coming from a mile away and are powerless to stop it. This is the kind of book that will make you cry and make you want to hold those you love very closely. I truly enjoyed the beginning of the book, but as I continued reading, it became more and more upsetting, and I felt more and more withdrawn. It hit me hard emotionally. That is the mark of a masterfully written story.
In Tiffany McDaniel's debut novel, she creates an allegory set in the small town of Breathed, Ohio, in 1984. Much is happening: scientists recently discovered AIDS; Apple revealed its Macintosh computer; astronauts walked among the stars; Marvin Gaye was killed; and Autopsy Bliss invited the devil to visit his town. The devil does show up, invitation in hand, in the form of a young African American boy named Sal, who really would just like some ice cream, and he is taken in by the quirky Bliss family. Mom never leaves the house for fear of rain, Autopsy is a lawyer, Grand is a baseball star, and the narrator, Fielding, lives a broken life as he tells the story of Sal and Breathed through flashbacks. Residents of Breathed first think Sal's a runaway from another town, and then as strange things begin happening around town, some of the residents—lead by skeptical resident Grayson Elohim—form a church-like group whose sole aim is to bring down the young boy they have begun to think is actually the devil. Fielding shares his memories of the summer of 1984, and reveals that he can't let go of his past. He is full of regret for how he treated Sal, and for things he said to his brother. He says he fought in "the War," and while he did not actually fight in a historical war, it's clear he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Everything he experienced during that summer changed him and made him a completely different man; the relationships he forms are few and fleeting. As Fielding reveals the story of Sal and his effect on residents of Breathed, the parallels to Gabriel García Márquez's story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" also become clear. In the story, the titular old man falls from the sky, and the residents of the town circle around him, creating a spectacle of him, while they try to make him conform to their ideal of an "angel." So it happens similarly in The Summer that Melted Everything. The townspeople, hearing that Sal claims to be the devil, immediately cast him as the villain in several unfortunate incidents in town, despite him not even being present in some cases. The vilification of a young African American boy as "the devil" heightens the allegorical significance of the book, especially considering the consistent and repeated violence against African American men. The small-town prejudices in Breathed, as well as the outright racism and prejudice on display (toward homosexuality in addition to ethnicity) reveal the absolute worst things humanity is capable of, and those terrible tendencies have been amplified in the public eye in recent weeks. We still vilify people for the color of their skin, and stereotype, and try to make them "fit" into our idea of how people should behave. That sort of thinking is not only detrimental to society, but, as Autopsy Bliss cautions Grand after he uses a derogatory term for homosexuals: "No more words that say something about our own ignorance." This book was a reminder and cautionary tale about how what we do to others reveals more about a person's own ignorance than it does about the oppressed and stereotyped peoples.
Become immersed in 1984 where innocence and purity are lost to hatred and bigotry. One word "devil" impacts the town of Breathed, Ohio in strange and unfortunate ways. A child with an "old soul" imparts new ways of looking at the world. Journey into a different concept of hell that is not illustrated by mainstream culture. Tiffany McDaniel eloquently weaves a tale of controversial topics that especially speaks to readers that lived through this time period. Such times were filled with fear, regret, wonder, and mystery. This is a great book that hints at foreboding doom, but makes you hope for better days for Dresden, Sal, and the Bliss family. It’s interesting how the life of innocence and purity can be snatched away with a fire that melted everything. The purpose of “yellow” and “flower petals” are redefined in a memorable way in this book. This a must read that is destined to become a classic!
"You can tell a lot about a man by what he does with a snake." Fielding Bliss looks back on the life-altering summer of 1984, when his father invited the devil to their hometown of Breathed, Ohio. The invitation is accepted by Sal, a thirteen-year-old black boy who claims to be the devil. After his arrival, an overbearing heat descends upon Breathed and tragic events begin to occur with frequency. The townspeople fixate on Sal and view him with suspicion. Is Sal actually the devil or just a runaway? Elohim, a neighbor who is friendly with Fielding, immediately dislikes Sal and seizes on the opportunity to focus the town's rage against him. While the community's lashes out at Sal, trouble is also brewing inside the Bliss home. The story is told by 84-year-old Fielding Bliss, primarily in flashbacks. He is consumed by guilt and regret. How did the caring thirteen-year-old we meet in the flashbacks turn into this self-destructive old man? He was so close with his family during the summer of 1984, so why does it seem that he has lost all contact with them? The story has a whimsical, magical feel, but it's also very dark. I'm going to steal a blurb from another book and call it a "Southern Gothic tall tale." It addresses racism, homophobia, AIDS hysteria, and domestic violence, but it never felt heavy-handed. It's filled with peculiar and interesting characters. Over the course of the novel, a charismatic leader whips the townspeople into a frenzy. There are hints along the way of the terrible events to come, but it begins gradually with disturbing rhetoric. The townspeople easily rationalize their atrocious behavior. The situation escalates to horrifying levels by the end of summer. When the people of Breathed find a "monster" to pin blame on, they become blind to their own monstrous behavior. Part of what makes it terrifying is that the events are so recognizable. The Summer That Melted Everything is a deeply-affecting book that will provoke discussion. Highly recommended!
4.5 Stars! "The heat brought out the throbs in hearts, the fevers, the things that couldn't be let go of. It was a perfect extractor of pain and frustration, of anger and loss. It brought everything to the surface and sweated it out." I have to be honest, The Summer That Melted Everything isn't something that I would've picked up off the shelf for myself; it's just not within my usual tastes. That being said, I was simply blown away by the incredible writing and disturbingly captivating story contained with in the pages. Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we're looking at what will soon be known as a classic! When Fielding's father, Autopsy Bliss, put an invitation to the devil in the newspaper, not for one second did anybody in Breathed, Ohio think he'd actually show up. Yet when a mysterious little boy named Sal rolls into town claiming to be the big man Lucifer himself with a hell-fire of a heatwave on his heels, things quickly get out of hand. An ill-fated string of events continues to rock the small town and soon, everyone's blaming the devil for anything they can think of, causing a hateful mob to rise up. They're thirsty for blood, out to destroy Satan himself, and may God have mercy on anyone who stands in their way. Early on, lines are drawn in the sand when even skeptics are made believers. Be careful when picking sides, because nothing is as it seems and even bystanders will be caught in the crossfire. Both beautifully written and darkly thought provoking, Tiffany McDaniel's debut novel is rich with endless possibilities for interpretation! I can easily see this being read in a classroom setting alongside well known classics such as The Crucible and Invisible Man and stimulating intense discussion as well! Is the devil really visiting backwater Ohio, or is Sal just a scared little boy so haunted by his demons that he can't tell where he ends and they begin? Will Breathed manage to get a breath of fresh air long enough to cool the hate threatening to burn it to the ground, or will this really be The Summer That Melted Everything?
The Summer That Melted Everything sees the devil invited to a little town called Breathed. What ensues are a series of strange accidents, an unsettling heat and questions about whether a small boy could really be who he claims to be. The story is actually kind of simple. The devil, depicted as a little boy, comes to a little town and its inhabitants get anxious when bad things start to happen. It's a simple scenario, but it's way more complex than that. This story revolves a lot about how people react to being near the devil. It's interesting to see how they gradually turn against him, even though it's just a little boy. There's a substantial amount of religious references in this book, which isn't really my cup of tea, but it didn't bother me that much as it did fit the story well. After all, the devil is an important character, so it would be strange not to include religion in some way. There are quite a few delicate topics besides religion involved in this story, like racism and sexuality. While at first I thought that they were a bit out of place, I later felt like they formed a good addition to the story and gave it a little bit more depth. However, this might have focused on the negative side slightly too much, but that's my personal opinion. I wasn't the biggest fan of the narrator of the story, the older version of Fielding Bliss. At the end of the book, you totally understand why he's so miserable and depressed, but I feel like he could've used a bit more happy moments, ones that he didn't end on a sad note. He seemed very unsympathetic which made it hard for me to like him, even though I did like his younger self. The devil, or Sal as he's called here, is a very interesting and intriguing character. While being a thirteen-year-old boy, he had so much depth to him. I liked that the 'bad guy' in this story wasn't really a bad guy, except at the end perhaps. He was a very human character that had his fair share of bad things happened to him. Tiffany McDaniel's writing style is something to look out for. She's very skilled at describing the characters and their environments in a way that you know a lot about them, but that you don't get bombarded with details. I really liked the way Sal told his stories. They were just captivating thanks to his manner of explaining things and speaking in metaphors. However, sometimes the sentences were structured rather difficult, in which case I had to read them a couple of times to fully understand them. The Summer That Melted Everything is an interesting read that wasn't like anything I've read before. It touched upon some very thought-provoking topics which I didn't really expect. I'll definitely be anticipating her next book as I absolutely liked her writing style and the story that came with it. Author Tiffany McDaniel was very kind to offer me an eARC of her debut novel. This, however, in no way influences my review.
Not only is the title "The Summer That Melted Everything" the perfect title for this week if you're sitting under the heat dome as I am but it is a great story! Fielding Bliss is young in the summer of 1984. An oppressive heat has settled over his mid-western town and his father has invited the devil to him. The devil comes in the form of Sal, a 13 year old boy who will change everything. And that is only one story line in this intricate and engaging debut novel (super impressive for a debut novel)! This book is literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and some horror elements thrown in for good measure and it is like nothing I have read before! There is a lot going on in this book. You have Sal the Devil. You have Fielding facing events that will lead to his downfall decades later as an adult. The heat itself plays a huge role in the book and then there is the story line of Fielding's older brother, Grand, who is trying to figure out his own life in the face of discovering who he is. There is more having to do with Fielding and Grand's father who feels major regret over a case that he once pursued where he ended up being dead wrong and is now fixated on his guilt over the situation. I only go into what these story lines are so that you can see how varied they are and so you can understand my amazement at how deftly McDaniel is able to put these story lines together and keep them flowing. Each story line is robust enough to stand on its own but tied together, it becomes something really special! In less talented hands, this could have just been a mess of too much going on but the way that McDaniel weaves everything together creates a story that is truly unique and so powerful. Not only is the storytelling good, the writing is good as well! The book is told from the perspective of Fielding through different ages and periods in his life. I liked how the author showed the progression of Fielding from a very typically hopeful child to a broken grown man. Some of the turns of phrase used in the book were both thought provoking and beautiful. This book definitely has me anxious for what the future holds for Tiffany McDaniel! She is definitely already on my "to watch" list!
I think something deep in my soul has shifted after reading this book. My gut is still churning after turning the final page 2 days ago, and its been years since a book brought me to the brink of tears. I read more psychological thrillers and dark fiction than one human likely should, yet none of that seemed as horrific as what I just read. Don’t misunderstand- this isn’t some bloodbath horror tale with cheesy specters of the devil and his minions. The only apparition in this story is a 13 year old boy, but back to that in a minute. Just like the blurb states, the setting is summer of 1984, and the book describes what was going on in the media during this time. I really loved all the small details she took the time to include; this seemed to put the level of writing over the top for me. Autopsy Bliss (yep, his real name), father to Fielding Bliss (our narrator), has placed an ad in the local paper inviting the devil to town. The reasoning behind this is explained in the final pages of our story, so you do get all kinds of closure, but the story starts out making you scratch your head and wonder “where is this lady going to take us with this?”. Yes, then a 13 year old black boy with green eyes shows up holding said ad claiming to be the devil, but this book is not what you’re thinking it is. I admit, I saw my friend Shelby’s review on Goodreads and my curiosity was piqued, but I was already overloaded with NetGalley books so I figured I’d catch it some time after publication. Thankfully the author contacted me and convinced me to read it now! Fact: Chelsea never re-reads books. Fact: Chelsea is going to have to re-read this book sometime in the future. The characters are what really sold me on this story. Each one was deep, flawed, and broken in their own ways, yet still lovable as I felt attached to each member of the Bliss family, including Sal. We get to see snippets of Fielding’s life as he ages from memories he shares with us as a man in his 80’s. We know early on that something major will happen at the end of the summer of ’84, and the tension grows in a slow, yet powerful way. Each chapter brought new revelations on the character’s personal struggles, as well as the impending doom that lingers over the entire town of Breathed. This story was crafted with so many real issues that were relevant then and are still relevant now- mob mentality, racism, homophobia, and the ever failing criminal justice system. The ending was nothing short of disturbing, mainly because it is so easily pictured and believable. I was completely shocked with all aspects of the ending; I did not see one thing coming with how this story concluded and it made me feel this weird cross between horrified and satisfied. I don’t want to put any spoilers in here, but I felt I had grown close to this family and was broken with them every step of the way. This is a must read that is deep, compelling, and timely for what is consuming our state of current affairs. My heart broke and wept openly as a reader, as a mother, and simply as a human being. PLEASE read this book; it will certainly be a pick in my round up for TOP 10 books I’ve read this year. *Many thanks to author Tiffany McDaniel and St. Martin’s Press for providing my copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review.
To me this is a totally unique story, one that relates the events of 1984 from the point of view of Fielding Bliss who as a teenager at the time. It starts by reminding readers of key inventions and events of the time then moves on to events in the story. Fielding’s father, Autopsy Bliss, is the local prosecutor and he is also the one who published a letter inviting the devil to their home town of Breathed, Ohio. It was just after the letter that thirteen year old Sal arrived in the town. The unbearable heatwave, the manipulative antics of community leaders and the secret, depraved antics of some of the citizens all have important roles to play in the story which includes physical abuse, danger and many things done in the name of religion that are anything but religious in their nature.It is a harrowing story of how communities attitudes and behaviour can be influenced by mass hysteria or religious fervour permitting otherwise unacceptable actions to be carried out with their consent. It is a moving, emotive story and seems so pertinent to some current attitudes and occurrences being reported in the news …. There are so many different issues portrayed in this superbly crafted novel, including racism, homophobia, suicide, child abuse, murder, religion, small town mobs, hysteria and even the fear of AIDS. This is no sweet read, it is a classic, a moving story of a family and the community in which they live, a story that will live on in the memory of readers. It is a dark, emotional portrayal of life where even those with the best of intentions can be misguided by mass hysteria into carrying out acts they would normally never dream of doing. Many thanks to the author for inviting me to read an ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review and for agreeing to be interviewed on this blog.
The Summer that Melted everything wasn't anything like I expected. From the cover and the title, I though it would ne a light contemporary novel. From the description I had hoped for some Dark satan- cult stuff. What it ended up being is the end of me. It is a book with weirdly named characters, strange storyline and to be honest I was totally confused in the first part of the book. But then after I finished it, tears won't stop coming out of my eyes and it hurt so much. I was an emotional wreck and couldn't have been more happy about it. This is the kind of book that I love to read. It is 1984, the year of the devil. Sal, a young boy with the greenest eyes and skin black as the night believes himself to be the devil who has come after being invited by Autopsy Bliss (weird name, I told you) Sal and Fieldin' (the protagonist) immediately become friends and as the story progresses, we see that the devil is better than most humans. Sal's thoughts and actions, they were so pure and deep even after people treated him with contempt. The portion of the book describing the heat and measures taken to keep oneself cold are almost hilarious. The writing is beautiful, Character development is indeed good and the plotline intriguing. Our torments also may, in length of time, Become our elements —MILTON, PARADISE LOST With Paradise Lost quotes as headers and the devil himself as part of this book, how could it be anything less than charming. Isn’t that what sin is, after all? Life given too much flame? Raw emotions and the innocence, the harsh brutality of time, stories behind characters, devil in the guise of humans and angel in the devil's body. These are the elements that differentiate this book from other books. And it amazed me that this book is from a debut author. To the author, I totally think you should keep writing more books like this. And I would be the first in line to read them. To all my fellow friends and readers, Go read this book. You won't regret it.
I really enjoyed this one. I seem to always be on the hunt for something original and different when it comes to my reading and this one really hit the mark. I love a dark story and this one did not disappoint. Not only was the story dark, it really dealt with a lot of different things in an impressive manner. I thought that the writing was beautiful and really added to the tale. The book is mostly set in the summer of 1984 in the little town of Breathed, Ohio. There are a few flashes into Fielding's future where we learn how deeply the events of that summer impacted his life. At the start of the book, Fielding meets a little black boy wearing a dirty pair of overalls. This boy says that he is the devil and came due to the invitation set forth by Fielding's father but asked to be called Sal. Sal quickly becomes another member of the eclectic Bliss family. The town of Breathed isn't nearly as welcoming to Sal. Since he is the devil, he is blamed for lots of things that go wrong. Despite the feelings against Sal, he seems to be one of the most level headed characters in the story. The advice he shares with Fielding and the rest of his new family shows a wisdom that is truly remarkable. Sal, Fielding, and the rest of the Bliss family were really colorful and interesting characters that all added a lot to the story. The writing was spectacular. Seriously. I am amazed that this was the author's debut novel. The way this story was put together really shows remarkable skill. The words flowed in such a way that it was really a treat to read this book. I almost felt like I was there with the Bliss family since the descriptions in the book were so vivid. I thought the pacing was very well done with a lot of difficult topics being covered. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something dark and different. The writing and the story are equally strong in this wonderful little story. I rarely accept review requests from authors but I am so glad that I decided to take a chance on this book. I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future and can't wait to see what else Tiffany McDaniel will come up with next. I received a copy of this book from Tiffany McDaniel and St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for the purpose of providing an honest review.
Darkness falls. This is an interestingly disturbing book that is filled with emotions and a deep darkness. The devil comes to Ohio! For a debut novel, McDaniel has done herself justice with such a powerful book. The heat of the book is not just the temperature of this summer in 1984. Is the devil a supernatural power or just part of mankind itself?
[This review first appeared on my blog, www.Jill-Elizabeth.com.] The Summer That Melted Everything is an incredible book by an immensely talented author, and it is a must-read for anyone who is even remotely interested in reading about childhood, philosophy, or the nature of good and evil AND for anyone who is even remotely interested in truly excellent writing… I was contacted by the author, Tiffany McDaniel, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her book. I read the sample on Amazon and was intrigued, so agreed to receive a complimentary copy in exchange for my objective review. Merciful heavens, am I glad I did… This book was, quite simply, wonderful. The description is plenty intriguing on its own. The sample text sealed the deal for me – largely based on the first sentence: “The heat came with the devil.” As you may know from previous posts, I’m a huge believer in the evaluative power of first sentences. The simple statement, coupled with the epigraph from Milton’s Paradise Lost, set questions a-twirl in my head; questions that never stopped twirling until the book closed. There is so much going on here… There is a story within a story, with shifts in time as the main character, Fielding Bliss, remembers a long-ago summer when life changed. There is a fascinating set of characters, with wildly complex interpersonal relationships both within the Bliss family and within the town of Breathed as a whole. There is the town of Breathed itself, in all of its 1980s (the timeframe of the main story) glory. There is a cacophony of dichotomies: good and evil, right and wrong, revelations and secrets, cruelty and mercy, melodrama and apathy. There are lessons learned too late and some that are never realized at all. There is the glorious innocence of childhood faith and the devastating reality of adult impotence. There are morals and lessons, carefully crafted into spun-sugar sentences that melt perfectly on the tongue without any aftertaste. And underpinning all of that is good, old-fashioned, strong and clear writing. I’ve seen comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird – the comparisons are not over-stated. There is a gloriously intricate simplicity at work in both books, which makes them a delight to read repeatedly because there are always new insights to tease out. This will definitely be a re-read for me – already I am insanely curious to see what new discoveries lie in wait in the beginning, now that I have traveled through the whole story… There were so many points when tears poured down my face, when I felt like my heart would break with the next sentence… This is an author who gets the importance of word choice and understands the value of sentence structure. The story unfolds in delicate layers, then suddenly – BAM! – a brutal truth smacks you over the head with a two-by-four. It hurts, but then the gorgeous language soothes the pain away – right up until the next whack. This is nuance at some of the finest quality I’ve read. Speaking of nuanced, McDaniel’s presentation of the nature of good versus evil was extraordinarily so – while remaining an entertaining story at the same time. (I am a lawyer by way of a philosophy major, so I’ve spent some time in the land of good v. evil, so know from which I speak!) It’s no small feat to dance that line, but McDaniel does it with finesse, making it look infinitely easier than I know it to be… I have been fortunate in that I’ve been able to “speak” with the author over em
I'm sitting here having just finished reading this book and I'm not sure exactly what to write. And I in no way mean that in a bad way. I just went on a journey that was majorly intense. There were so many controversial issues going on in this book. Plus there's the fact, was Sal the Devil? There were just so many things I enjoyed about this book. I loved Sal's description of Hell and the way he would counsel people. I seriously cannot believe it is a debut. Kudos to you Tiffany McDaniel on a job well done. I enjoyed it, was entertained and am looking forward to your next one!! Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for allowing me to review this book for free.
I received this book from the author for an honest review. I never met Tiffany until she reached out through my blog for a review of her debut book. The the name had me intrigued from the beginning. I had no idea what to expect but glad I decided to read the book. When I read the synopsis I thought this would be a very interesting read. Well, I was wrong about that. This book is a fascinating read that simply draws you into the small town of Breathed introducing you to an attention grabbing plot. Her writing is though provoking, stimulating and beautiful. The plot's natural flow takes you to the highs and lows with such ease that you have to stop at times and reread certain parts since it simply astounds you. The character of Sal and Fielding is almost inseparable from the moment they met and through the entire story you just feel this deep connection with them both. Fielding's story takes you from a young boy of thirteen up to seventy, learning more about his own struggles as he still tries to make sense of the summer of 1984 after all the years on earth. That summer left its mark on him and at times I really felt his despair, his search as he still tries to make sense of it. The story begins actually with a joke like invitation but when the invited person pitched up in Breathed the entire town woke up and you learn - in depth - about every character and their own demons they tried to live with. This was truly a wonderful reading experience and a book I can recommend to all literary readers with a though provoking twist.