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The Summer That Melted Everything: A Novel…
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The Summer That Melted Everything: A Novel

by Tiffany McDaniel

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An author to watch. This book is a blend of gothic, magical realism, and philosophy. It struck me as a rewrite of To Kill a Mockingbird done in lusher language and with more overt (sometimes wearyingly overdone) life lessons. Small acts of cowardice, failures of the heart, and the willingness of people to lay the blame for personal pain at the feet of some scapegoat -- it's enough to fuel a fascinating magical story.

I would recommend this book, but I would not reread it. The writing is lush, and at times so well done you want to stop and savor it. Then in the next paragraph it's overdone or careless (repetitive), or the moral of the episode is hammered at you with an allegory or image that just makes you tired.

I will definitely be looking for another book by this author. Voice and passion will be worth watching. ( )
  bjellis | Sep 11, 2017 |
Review based on an ARC provided by Netgalley. Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for this opportunity!

I already suspected this would be out of my field of expectations—I mean, how can you envision a story about the devil coming to town? Still, this isn't a book I figured even after many pages. In fact, this is more like a book I'll spend a long time trying to figure out.

How hard it is picking where to start and what exactly to say without revealing too much!

Because he had wanted to see for himself, Autopsy Bliss sent out an invitation for the devil to come to Breathed, Ohio. When his son Fielding meets Sal and brings him home, a black boy who looks his age but says to be the devil, the town isn't as hospitable. As summer of 1984 brings intense heat to town, all things melt.

The main win of this book is its exquisite voice, I could hardly believe this was a debut novel. Narrated by the septuagenarian Fieldings, he looks back on the scalding summer of 1984, when he was still a thirteen-year-old in the small town of Breathed, and how those events came to define his life hereafter. The plot is all different and so is the technique but from beginning to end the voice reminded a little of My Sunshine Away, an omen I was in for a real ride.

This book starts as a little harder read—the prose is borderline poetic at times as well as filled with allegories and underlying meaning. Even the names a little too much, too cheesy when you're starting. However, it either got easier or I just stopped judging after the beginning. If you are a fan of underlining quotes, buy some markers as you'll have a feast.

I wasn't expecting to love characters here, and I fell hard. Unfortunately, my love for Sal was something unfinished. Perhaps I was too focused on the mother's grief and especially on Grand's, my favorite of all. During my next reading I want to pay more attention to our boy-devil but for now I'd say the author could have worked better on presenting him. I know his life story is beautiful so I'm sure there is a potential there but I couldn't relate as much.

And wow... I cried too many times. For a story about the devil coming to town, this sure almost melted down my lacrimal glands. The plot was well planned and you can simply feel things moving and taking place like the orchestra of an imminent tragedy. Although it broke my heart, I do like the feeling of a well-composed book.

The author may have lost it a little toward the ending—perhaps the final 10–15%. The climax scene is the book's biggest flaw for me. I do understand and even appreciate the point I feel she tried to make but the execution was a little too much, the opposite from the beautiful narration and scenes she had brought together along the way. On account of that, the final turnover for Autopsy felt out of place, and Sal's ending lost a little of its shine.

Because this story deals with perceptions and prejudice and deceit, picking up spoiler-free opinions is mission: impossible. You will have to take my word on this, the story brings up very good themes for discussion, even if, as above mentioned, the author wasn't so good concluding them. Or maybe right because she couldn't do it, I'd say this is ideal for reading along with someone, be it a buddy reading or a book-club reading. So what do you think about the devil?

I don't recommend this for those sensitive about racial discrimination and homosexual contents. Especially the former could have received a better approach, in my opinion. I do remember seeing a couple of reviews from people uncomfortable and concluding the author condoned it; while I don't agree, I wasn't a fan of how she treated this. Also, even though this is mostly centered on a thirteen-year-old Fielding and has no explicit content, I would also warn a younger audience against this. It is a coming-of-age story of sorts but with too sensitive a topic, requiting some maturity on the reader's part.

The book is not a quick read but it really grabs you after just a few pages. You won't take an eternity to finish—you'll be unable to put it down before it's over. ( )
  AnnaBastos | Jun 13, 2017 |
The devil, in the form of a 13 year old African American boy, accepts attorney Autopsy Bliss' invitation for the devil to visit him. Mr. Bliss is the father of two boys, Grand, a baseball star, and Fielding, 13 years old, the same age as the devil. He is also a husband of a traditional wife with an odd fear of going outside. McDaniel beautifully uses her richly described characters to demonstrate the dangers of playing God, of judging people, of being sure people are guilty of crimes even when others say they are. She examines the human tendency to become sheep around charismatic leaders and forget their own moral compasses. She peels away the layers of the seemingly perfect and socially graceful to find demons. She unravels the complexities and hardships of the bad to find the kindness of angels. After the really hot summer that melted ice cream when a little boy came to town claiming to be the devil, we are left wondering if one can ever truly know what is in a person's heart. ( )
  ErinDenver | Jun 12, 2017 |
When the devil came to Breathed Ohio. Interesting but depressing ( )
  cjordan916 | Feb 26, 2017 |
I’m shocked that this is a debut novel. The storyline is very original (as are some of the character names) and the writing is simply wonderful. The only negative I have would be that occasionally it felt a little forced rather than simply flowing. Overall though, it was great and I think this author has a lot to bring to the literary world.

The novel is narrated by Fielding Bliss, a very lonely old man fighting internal demons of his own. He tells the story of when he was a 13 year old boy in 1984 - the year the devil, who appears as a young, homeless, black boy, came to the very small town of Breathed, Ohio. Fielding’s dad and the sheriff don’t believe him to be the devil and try to find out who he actually belongs to, but as negative things happen the town becomes more and more convinced that he is in fact the devil. As the novel switches between the adult Fielding and young Fielding, you are able to see how events of his youth have shaped his life.

The timing of the release of this book couldn’t be better. There are currently disturbing issues in America revolving around racism, homosexuality, stereotypes, and bullying. A recurring theme within the novel is judging people based on their appearance and without truly knowing them - their thoughts, their fears, their struggles, their loves, and their losses. The actions and re-actions based on these judgements effect the entire community. Isn’t that true in real life as well?

Thank you to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of this novel in return for an honest review. I greatly appreciate it and wish for wonderful things to come for this talented author.
( )
  lynnski723 | Dec 31, 2016 |
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