The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel
Publication: August 11st 2016 by Scribe UK
Format: Paperback Pages: 320
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.
Devastatingly beautiful, The Summer That Melted Everything is a captivating story about community, redemption, and the dark places where evil really lies. – Goodreads.
I’m so glad McDaniel reached out to me with this novel because if she hadn’t, it would have probably slipped through my radar and I would have missed out on an amazing story.
The Summer That Melted Everything is narrated in the first-person perspective by Fielding Bliss, who reminisces about his past whilst occasionally bringing the reader back to his present state. The narrative has a storytelling style, and it starts off from the moment in time when Fielding’s life changed forever.
Usually, you have light reads that don’t require a lot of brain power and concentration for you to enjoy them, and then you have heavier reads that can be a bit draining because they force you to think through the many layers and themes within them. Somehow, The Summer That Melted Everything fits into both of these categories. The novel is deeply insightful and complex but also easy as a breeze to read (in terms of writing style). I didn’t feel the need to block everyone and everything out to enjoy this novel, and I didn’t need to ponder over sentences for ages. I could have easily finished this book within a couple of hours if I hadn’t forced myself to slow down and savour every little drop of it.
The Summer That Melted Everything challenges our perception of good and evil. It addresses fear and the way it can affect people; how it can drive them insane and make them do ridiculously horrible things that they would never do under any other circumstances. The way ignorance can ignite this fear and how people who experience fear, abuse fear, and those who fall victim to it, are left scarred as a consequence. Yeah, real deep shiz.
We’re talking about racism, domestic violence, child abuse and homophobia. The fear of the different and the unknown combined with the abuse of power. The novel is set in the 1980s, and McDaniel appears to have skilfully captured the concerns and beliefs of the time. The novel features the confusion, irrationality and rumours surrounding AIDS. Court battles, mob mentality, questionable policemen, unjust acts and barbaric punishments leap off the pages. The Summer That Melted Everything is rich in detail, but I never felt overwhelmed or buried under the facts. There was no judgement or preaching from McDaniel, she simply crafted the story and then presented it to her readers, allowing them to reach their own conclusions.
There are some very disturbing scenes due to the nature of the themes covered in this novel. McDaniel does not shy away from presenting us with the details, and these details are vividly gory at times. However, I felt like this was a respectful move from the author. Things like racism, child abuse, domestic violence and homophobia are not pretty, bright and cheerful. The narrative is truthful and shows us what these attitudes and their consequences truly look like. But again, despite all of this, I didn’t detect a trace of judgement from the author. I felt like the novel was making me think deeply without consciously making the effort to do so, and the writing style helped me slip into a lot of different shoes. Consider this a trigger warning!
The characters had a life of their own. At times, I felt like I saw traces of Atticus Finch in Fielding’s dad, who is also a lawyer in the novel. I did get emotionally attached to some of the characters and felt strongly repulsed and infuriated at the others. I loved Sal, the self-proclaimed devil who surprisingly felt like a breeze in all the heat; some of his dialogues were beautiful. Fielding was that kid you warm up to and root for, an excellent protagonist who grows and learns as the story progresses. Grand, Fielding’s older brother, was my second favourite character after Sal. My emotional attachment to the characters meant that the story moved me to tears a few times. I haven’t cried so much reading a book since Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. And like The Book Thief, The Summer That Melted Everything broke my heart but also left me in awe at McDaniel’s incredible work.