Every so often, if you are lucky, you will be introduced to a book that will resonate with you like the timeless works of J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee and S.E. Hinton. The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel is a novel that should be assigned and studied in literature classes. Professors would praise it for its depth and sensitive subjects. Students would read it cover to cover and be forever changed by the story of Fielding Bliss and his friend Sal.
Synopsis: During the summer of 1984 in Breathed, Ohio, a boy named Sal appears out of nowhere, claiming to be the devil. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, befriends him and brings him home where he is taken in as a new member of the family. After all, Fielding’s father is the reason why the so-called fallen angel came to the town in the first place. Sal was thought of as an odd boy for identifying himself as the Prince of Darkness. Everyone thought that he was just a runaway from a nearby farm town. When strange accidents start to occur with the unbearable heat of the summer and an old man’s obsession with prosecuting the boy, the people in this small town begin to believe that Sal is indeed the devil. Tension rises as Breathed is overtaken by irrationality, leading to irreparable consequences.
McDaniel’s debut novel left me with all kinds of emotions, from happiness to heartbreak, from beginning to end. It explored themes such as innocence, love, loss, homosexuality, prejudice, racism, the stupidity of the mass, propaganda…Each character brought something to the story and made it complete, even the antagonist. Why would (or could) anyone empathize with the villain? And yet, each character’s past defined who they became and the reason behind their actions.
There are many passages in the book that simply cannot be forgotten or ignored. They make you think but most of all, feel.
“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.” (Chapter 9)
“One day I said Mary and then I said something else, I know I did, but ended it all with a me. She thought I’d said marry me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that wasn’t what was said at all. She was just so excited. I thought, hell, this girl really wants to marry me. Why not give it a try? Maybe her love would be enough to paradise the hell. But then I realized, I couldn’t use her like that. Like a shield in the fray. She deserved to marry a man who loved her for all the things she was and not for all the armour she could be.” (Chapter 13)
“You know why I love the sky, Fielding? Because it makes everyone short. There isn’t a man tall enough to ever look down on the sky. The sky makes everyone look up, and in that, it makes everyone me.” (Chapter 20)
The author had asked me to review her novel last summer and provided me with an electronic copy. Though it took me several months to read it, I would have done so in a single sitting if it wasn’t for work, school, more work and other distractions. I simply adore this book and cannot help but talk about it to everyone that ask me for a recommendation. Not only did I vote for McDaniel’s novel for the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards, I also cast my vote for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. When I finished reading it on my Kindle, I bought myself a hardcopy so that I could hug it better (and I’m not even kidding! I physically hug my books.)
Quite frankly even though my TBR list is getting longer and longer, I want to read The Summer that Melted Everything again just to relive the beautiful writing of McDaniel and the story of Fielding and Sal.
“The Summer that Melted Everything” by Tiffany McDaniel
Publication date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥