The Summer that Melted Everything
by Tiffany McDaniel
Genres: Fiction / Literary
“The lukewarm past had been overtaken by the scalding now. Gone was the perfect temperature. The breeze. All replaced by an almost violent heat that turned your bones into volcanoes, your blood into the lava that yelled their eruptions. Folks would later talk about that sudden onset of heat. It was their best evidence of the devil’s arrival.“
The Bliss family live in the small, humble town of Breathed, Ohio. In the summer of 1984, local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes in the town newspaper an invitation to the devil to come visit the town. Soon after, thirteen-year old Sal appears, alone and grubby on the courthouse steps, where he is met by Autopsy’s son, Fielding. The Bliss family take in Sal like he is one of their own, but there are others in town who are less than thrilled to hear that the devil has arrived. As a freak heatwave sends frustrations and patience simmering, a number of shocking incidents befall the residents of Breathed. But where will the blame be laid?
This started out kind of comical, slowly building your rapport with the main protagonists, the Bliss family, so that you felt protective towards them as the story progressively got darker.
For me this book threw many questions out there – like what is good and what is evil, to what extent do they need each other and where does the line get blurry. And then we have the issue of labels, and group mentality. Young Sal, as the devil, is the scapegoat for every bad thing that befalls the town, the label applied to him enough to condemn him despite people not taking the time to get to know him. Is he really evil? Is it all really his fault? You’ll have to read it to find out.
Fear is a running theme. The fear of Stella Bliss, who refuses to leave her house because of a phobia of the rain. The fear of Grand Bliss, who has a secret in a time and place of hatred when he is likely to be misunderstood. The fear of Sal, who doesn’t want to own the label that is pinned to him and despite fearing the townfolk, tries to show love and compassion. The fear the town has of Sal, believing he has brought the heatwave and the spate of terrible events to them. Some of these characters will overcome their fears, some will succumb to them, some will not be able to live with them.
Overall, I’m still trying to gather my thoughts about this book and decide exactly what impression it’s left on me. But while reading it, there were a number of times I read over a sentence more than once because its composition was so clever. The writing was beautiful and intricate, many times I paused to admire how the author had put together the message, especially when in the mind of the main character Fielding and the dialogue of Sal. And a book that I still think about long after finishing it is always worthy of credit in my opinion.
Did not like it – It was ok – Liked it – Really liked it – It was amazing