Book Title: The Summer That Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Genres: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Suspense
Date Read: 07/14/16
Pub Date: 07/26/16
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.
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.
“The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat was 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?”
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.
“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 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. Please stay tuned as I’ll be posting an interview with the author and a giveaway for a signed copy of The Summer That Melted Everything near pub day!