Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heatwave 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 hear wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish hear, 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 catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
RELEASE DATE: 26TH JULY
I was sent a copy of ‘The Summer That Melted Everything’ by the author, Tiffany McDaniel, in exchange for an honest review. I was intrigued by the slightly unusual description and the fact that it was set in 1984 – I love books set between 1960-1990 (partly because I wish I was born then!).
The story is narrated by Fielding Bliss, a young teenage boy living in a small Ohio community. The narration switches between Fielding during the summer of 1984 and Fielding now, an ageing lonely man who is working out where his life went so wrong.
In 1984, Fielding’s father, Autopsy Bliss, has an invitation to the devil printed in the local newspaper. This sounds odd – but the reasons for it become apparent later in the book, as Autopsy reveals that he struggles with his important position deciding the fate of the people brought before him.
Soon after the invitation is printed, Fielding meets Sal, a skeletal black boy his own age, who is claiming to have come in answer to it. Fielding hurries him home to meet his family, certain that his father will be happy to have had his invitation answered. Of course, at first, no one believes Sal and his elaborate stories, believing that he is just a young boy who has run away from a dysfunctional home life. The Bliss family welcome him into their home, allowing him to stay as one of the family until his own can be found.
However, as the intense heat sets in on the small town, and series of disasters begin, the townspeople begin to question everything they first believed about Sal. Could he really be who he says he is? As the distrust spreads, people begin to link Sal to every bad thing that has happened since he arrived. One man sets up a group for people to discuss the events and form a plan of action – the group soon comes to resemble a religious cult and the people involved start to lose their sense of morals and reality, which will later lead to a senseless catastrophe that everyone involved will regret for the rest of their lives.
I absolutely loved this book. It was very well written and deals with a lot of important issues, race and sexuality in particular. The characters were interesting and unique, many of them a bit odd but likeable in a strange way. For example, Fielding’s mother who is terrified of the rain so does not venture further than the front porch, instead turning each room in their house into a country so she can travel the world within the safety of four walls and a roof.
I don’t think I can really do this book justice in a written review. I would say it belongs in the same category as The Virgin Suicides and The Lovely Bones – deserving to become a modern classic. I am so glad I decided to read it, and I know that it will be one that I read again – I may even treat myself to a paper copy so I can have it on my bookshelf.
Please let me know if you read it, I would love to discuss it with you!
But the thing about light is it all looks the same when you’re in the dark, so you can’t tell if what powers that light is good or if it is bad, because the light blinds you to its source of power. All you know is that it saves you from the darkness.