The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
During a heat wave in the summer of 1984, Fielding Bliss's father invites the devil to town. When a 13 year old boy shows up claiming to be the devil, the Ohio town of Breathed will never be the same again...
I passed on this when I originally saw it on Netgalley, mostly because of Autopsy Bliss's name. Seriously? Autopsy? Anyway, Tiffany McDaniel emailed me a review request, mentioning how hard it was for first time authors to get reviews, and I caved in after my Grinch-like heart grew two sizes.
I honestly had no idea what to expect with this but I knew I'd struck gold right away. I read a lot of books where the prose is nothing spectacular. I could tell this one was special from the first paragraph or so.
The Summer That Melted Everything is Paradise Lost written by Flannery O'Connor, a southern Gothic tale with the power of a hurricane. It's a tale of families, racism, religion, small town mob mentalities, the evil that people hold in their hearts, and a lot of other serious themes.
The Summer That Melted Everything is Fielding Bliss' fall from grace, from being an optimistic 13 year old to be a broken adult decades later. The devil's arrival, Sal's arrival, turns his life upside town.
The Bliss family and their relationship with Sal fuels the narrative. Fielding Bliss and Sal are fast friends. Sal, devil or not, is wise beyond his years. Father Autopsy is a lawyer and mother Stella is a homemaker who is afraid to go outside. Brother Grand is good at everything, seemingly the boy every girl wants to be with. Sal's arrival changes all of them irrevocably.
There is a lot of emotional packed into this book and it sure dredged up some emotions in me. The part with the dog was just the tip of the emotional iceberg. It's thought provoking and has some serious weight to it. As I wrote earlier, it reads a lot like Flannery O'Connor and I felt wrung out after reading it.
The building hysteria of the townsfolk toward Sal reminds me of Needful Things a bit. I had no idea how the book would end but I knew it would be comparable to the destruction of Castle Rock. And it was. The last 20% was like watching the end of Old Yeller four or five times.
The Summer that Melted Everything is a first novel that reads like a lost classic. A bleak, emotional classic. Five out of Five stars.
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