Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave 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 heat wave rolls into town right along with him.
As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, 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 a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel
Publication Date: July 26, 2016 by St. Martin’s Press
Why, upon hearing the word devil, did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see a lake? A flower growing by that lake? A mantis praying on the very top of a rock? A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.
When I picked up this book, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The description on the inside flap doesn’t fully explain how powerful and gut-wrenching The Summer That Melted Everything is – and this is Tiffany McDaniel’s first published novel!
The novel addresses a multitude of issues (race, sexuality, gender roles, mental illness – just to name a few), but does so in a way that blends right in with the plot. Although the majority of the story takes place in the 1980s, it felt like it could just have easily been set in the past OR present and I felt like this made the events of the book even more heartbreaking. McDaniel touches upon topics that clearly are still applicable to today’s culture and climate while also managing to create a unique coming of age story that is unlike anything else I’ve ever read.
As we walked home, I knew from far away the trees would’ve looked nice, the grass would’ve looked green, and we would’ve looked like just a couple of boys walking home, armed with Midwest love and Bible Belt morals.
But up close, the trees were scorched, the grass was dead, and the boys were on the verge of tears with the belts of those morals rightened around their necks, threatening to hang them if they dared step off the stool of masculinity.
Although Fielding is our narrator and it is from his point of view that we are taken through the events of that particular summer in his childhood, all of McDaniel’s characters are complicated and layered which makes it even easier to become emotionally invested in the novel. Grand, Fielding’s older brother, was my particular favorite and his relationship with Fielding reminded me a bit of Jem and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.
I made the mistake of expecting The Summer that Melted Everything to be simpler – something more related to the horror genre, but I was happily mistaken. This is the type of book that a college class could spend weeks analyzing and discussing – not only for the content, but for McDaniel’s prose as well. Despite all the sadness and the hatred in this book, there’s something equally beautiful in the way McDaniel describes it all.
He held her cheek, his thumb lightly bruising over her lips as he whispered in her ear, ‘I’ll be the black boy. You’ll be the white girl. And the world will say no. But we’ll just say yes, and be the only eternity that matters.’