Title: The Summer That Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Genre(s): Dark, Gothic
Page Count: 320
Reviewed by: PIU
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
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.
“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,
That was the invitation by Autopsy Bliss, Fielding’s father that brought the devil in town. It was the summer of 1984 and the people of Breathed, Ohio was experiencing the mother of all heat waves.
Our story starts with the strange 13 year old black boy with the oddest green eyes, coming to town and declaring himself as the Devil. No one can determine the origin of the boy in the overalls. He talks as if he knows the secrets of the universe. But is he the real devil causing the heat, which is scrambling everyone’s brains or is he just a boy, trying to be a part of a loving family???
“Being the devil made him a target, but it also meant he had a power he didn’t have when he was just a boy. People looked at him, listened to what he said. Being the devil made him important. Made him visible. And isn’t that the biggest tragedy of all? When a boy has to be the devil in order to be significant?”
This book is just brilliant. I loved each and every word that makes up this fantastic read. There was so much that will force you to think in a single sentence. You need to savor each word to appreciate the awesomeness of the author’s writing.
“People always ask, Why does God allow suffering? Why does He allow a child to be beaten? A woman to cry? A holocaust to happen? A good dog to die painfully? Simple truth is, He wants to see for Himself what we’ll do. He’s stood up the candle, put the devil at the wick, and now He wants to see if we blow it out or let it burn down. God is suffering’s biggest spectator.”
Sal is a mysterious boy with a heart fit for angels, who just wanted to be a part of a family. The Bliss’s were a family I adored a lot. They had such a strong bond among each other. Sal’s self declared status as the town Devil combined with the heat wave becomes a cauldron of boiling hate for the town’s people. But each and every Bliss makes him feel loved and protect him against everyone who tries to harm him.
“You, Sal, you are the last S in our name. You are the wholeness of our family”
Alongside the mystery of Sal and the speculation of his unsavory powers to bring misfortune to Breathed, there is the side plot of Grand Bliss, Fielding’s older brother who was “the very meaning of his name”. He was the favorite son, the town’s golden boy and a GOD to Fielding. Through his story the author explores the AIDS and “gay intolerance” by the community at that time. He is my favorite character in this book after Sal, of course. His ending left me in tears. He was a guy worthy to have the name “Grand”.
The events in this book and the behavior of the town’s people go a long way to show that “how People want to blame someone else for their misfortune”. Throughout the summer of 1984, the heat melts away their common sense and when they do come back to their senses, it was too late. The damage was done. A family destroyed and a life lost.
The events of the story are disturbing and dark. The ending is shocking but the way it’s written you can easily picture it happening. The read stresses mainly on the issues of “racism” and “homophobia” and the crimes that the hate begets. The Justice system is also influenced by it, which results in many not getting justice just because they are black or gay.
This is a very compelling read. It is deep, dark and thought provoking. Tiffany McDaniel has written a masterpiece and you need to have enough time in your hands to truly savor this fantastic book.
“That’s how I knew Sal was no devil. Because of the way he looked at the birds. Not as an angel who once flew, but as a boy who so wished he could.”