The Summer That Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Publication: July 26th, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Format: e-ARC, 320 pages
Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Read: August 2016
I received an e-ARC of this book from the author and St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
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.
Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
This is a book that will rip your heart out and stomp on it with no mercy. It’s painful, powerful and intense. There are times when it got confusing because it moves between the life of the protagonist in the past and the present. I would find myself reading and be confused about the actions of a 13 year old when it was actually the 84 year old man telling that part of the story. There wasn’t enough distinction between them. But it was the way the story needed to be told. It was all about family, friendship, death, innocence, right, wrong and religion and it was full of many twists and turns that honestly left me breathless.
Writing Style – 5 out of 5 stars
Beautiful, just beautiful honestly. The writing style is so eerie and atmospheric. It reminded me a lot of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing but so much older, much more seasoned to fit with the story and what it was trying to say. It’s powerful, intense and emotional. It reads whimsically and lyrically. There are some of the most beautiful sentences that I’ve ever seen in this book. It was enchanting.
Characters – 4 out of 5 stars
It’s really hard for me to explain what I feel when it comes to the characters. I really felt for some and others made me totally uncomfortable. But they were all complex and well developed. While strange and odd in some moments, they were palpable. They felt like real honest people with quirks and fears and memories and pasts that shape who they are. Fielding is the main character and I was a little torn over how to feel about him. We meet him in two different places in his life which project two different personalities and they were both so heartbreaking and painful to read about. The older him is full of regret and vulnerability and so much built up disappointment and rage and sadness. It was so torturous to hear him talk about his struggles in life and then slowly but surely see where everything went haywire to make him that way. The younger him just made me feel such pity because I could see how he would end up and how he dug himself deeper and deeper into that upcoming reality. He’s young and innocent yet hopeful but misguided. He makes so many of what he considers to be mistakes and it’s hard not to agree with him because you see the result. All of this makes for a truly intense and emotional journey.
You might be wondering why, if I’m singing the praises of this book in that upper portion, did I give it 3 stars. That’s because I wasn’t prepared for what this book brought up in me which might be the only reason why this isn’t 5 stars.
The plot is powerful. We follow Fielding Bliss, an 84 year old man who tells us the story of the summer of 1984 when he was 13 and his dad invited the devil to his town and he showed up in the form of a young African American boy named Sal. To be quite honest, reading this book was a struggle. I’ve never taken so long to read a book before, I never wanted to make the effort and pick it up, and when I did, I could only read one or two chapters at a time. These kind of actions in my reading usually means the book would get two stars from me, and I was really tempted to do so because I wanted to be honest, but I ultimately couldn’t give this book that star rating because it wasn’t a problem of the book, it was my problem. I wasn’t in the right mindset to read this book. The last few weeks have been really tough on me emotionally and I wasn’t prepared to read such an intense and emotional book. It’s sad and heartbreaking and painful and I didn’t need to feel those things right now, considering what my mind set was at the time. And I’m really disappointed in myself because I am almost 100% sure that I would’ve loved this book otherwise. It’s beautifully written, character driven, emotionally impactful and it’s a debut novel! I really commend the author for this amazing book and I wish I could’ve given it the attention it deserved. The plot is so intricate. Forget the fact that there are two interchanging points of views, both sides of the story are powerful and they interconnect. Each part is revealed in a specific moment. So many deaths and so much heartache in one story.
Fielding broke my poor heart. He’s had so much hardship and loss for such a young kid. To see how that affects the man he becomes just makes it that much more powerful and heartbreaking. I know I keep repeating those words every few sentences but that’s the kind of story this is. It’s not happy though it has its moments, its about loss of innocence and childhood and how quickly things can get out of control when you don’t think about consequences beyond right now. When you don’t speak your truth all day, every day. The man Fielding becomes is just sad. He’s full of regret and he punishes himself for the wrongs he did in the past which obviously don’t help him or anyone around him. He forces himself to not experience happiness and it hit me a lot harder than I ever wanted it to because I was not ready to see what my unfortunate thought processes could cause me. It got too close for comfort.
I wanted to mention the side characters only briefly because I want you to experience them for yourself. I loved Grand and Dresden. They felt bigger than the page and I wish their stories could’ve stretched out much longer. Sal who is practically another protagonist next to Fielding was really hard to read for me. Half of the time I believed his devil story and the other half I didn’t. I couldn’t understand his motivations and I didn’t like that his appearance was the catalyst to such much awfulness. But at the same time, I couldn’t hate him. He got to me, slowly but he did.
Overall, I wish I would’ve saved this book to read it another time. I am hopeful that at some point I’ll be able to re-read it with a clear head and give it the chance it definitely deserves. I know that I talked a lot more about how it affected me than about what it’s really about but I think this is a book that you should dive into with as little knowledge as possible but prepared and ready to feel a lot of things.
So that’s it for this review! Maybe not my most eloquent one but I did my best. Let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought of it. Let me know if you’re thinking of reading it! Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post in like an hour haha.