Synopsis: Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes an invitation to the devil to come to the country town of Breathed, Ohio, nobody quite expected that he would turn up. They especially didn’t expect him to turn up a tattered and bruised thirteen-year-old boy.
Fielding, the son of Autopsy, finds the boy outside the courthouse and brings him home, and he is welcomed into the Bliss family. The Blisses believe the boy, who calls himself Sal, is a runaway from a nearby farm town. Then, as a series of strange incidents implicate Sal — and riled by the feverish heatwave baking the town from the inside out — there are some around town who start to believe that maybe Sal is exactly who he claims to be.
But whether he’s a traumatised child or the devil incarnate, Sal is certainly one strange fruit: he talks in riddles, his uncanny knowledge and understanding reaches far outside the realm of a normal child — and ultimately his eerily affecting stories of Heaven, Hell, and earth will mesmerise and enflame the entire town.
“Even a devil’s heart isn’t just for beating.”
Fuck, this was depressing.
Almost two years to the day since adding it to my TBR, I finally gave this a try &.. sorry friends, I know there is a lot of praise for this book, but I felt so disappointed by the time I finished it. I was left feeling uneasy. Sure.. I sobbed during the last bit.. but then I just felt.. gross after. Like I was emotionally manipulated. It just seemed like a depressing book for the sake of being depressing.
Tiffany McDaniel’s debut novel started off well for me. I thought we may have another Summer of Night or The Bottoms on our hands. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the similarities it had with To Kill a Mockingbird, as well. In the beginning I quite enjoyed it! But oof. I had such a deep awareness of metaphor. Of parables. McDaniel went overboard with THE MESSAGE. So overboard that it almost gets lost. There was just.. TOO MUCH! Almost like a soap opera where every single social injustice is thrown into the storyline. It took away part of the authenticity for me & instead came across as pedantic & sensationalist.
However, the writing was so damn lovely in parts. The language was quite gorgeous. The atmosphere was haunting & dynamic, especially during the first half. You could almost feel the heat radiating from Breathed. The concept was so unique.. yet the execution fell short. Especially when it came to character development. Or lack thereof. My biggest complaint was with the how Sal was depicted. He was honestly just sort of.. there. I truly didn’t have any strong feelings towards him one way or another. Which is a shame, considering he is the possible “devil” of the story. I didn’t like that he was essentially the only black character in a book that focuses much of the story on racism. Yet, Sal never speaks out about it. This was such a missed opportunity to deal with the subject head-on.
Clearly magical realism is just not my favorite genre. I’ve tried & generally I end up feeling pretty meh about the outcome. The Summer that Melted Everything had so much potential. Perhaps if it was a short story I would have preferred it more, because there were some truly profound moments to take away from this.. but they became muddled amidst everything else.
I wanted to love this. I really did. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one that I fell madly for. YMMV!