Saturday 23 July 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer that Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel

Book Description:
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 temperature 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 wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

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This is quite an impressive debut title from McDaniel. The author establishes and tackles some controversial topics - the protrayal coming off as bias most of the time, mind you - that defines the atmosphere of the story and the community of Breathed, Ohio. The story is told from the perspective of Fielding Bliss, who recalls the summer of '84 when, at the time Breathed is experiencing the hottest of summer's, a young boy happened into town, claiming to be the devil summoned by Fielding's father, Autopsy Bliss. I was in two minds about this story from start to finish. There were definitely moments I found so engaging I didn't want to stop reading and then there were moments I found a little overbearing that I found myself putting the book down. My curiosity to discover Sal's fate, however, won the battle, and so I read on and finished the book, which I'm glad I did because this book is interesting and enjoyable.

This story certainly piqued my interest right from the start as it was something I hadn't read before, and I found it to be rather refreshing. What really stood out for me was the way the author personified idelogy - virtues and vices presented in the form of man. Having said that, I did find the writing style to be somewhat preachy and subjective, and while the story was very engaging and thought-provoking, it took me a little while to gravitate towards the characters. I didn't quite feel as connected to the characters as I had hoped as the authorial voice was very dominant, ultimately superceding the voice of Fielding Bliss and the other characters whom, at first, I found to be very independent of societal strains, such as Sal (the self-proclaimed devil), Elohim (Fielding's cynical neighbour) and Grand (Fielding's older brother). The characters of this story go through quite a journey, so much so, there never appeared to be a moment of resilience for Fielding. The story became overconsumed with its portrayal of good and bad, wrong and right - moral codes of reality - that it lost its way. I kept forgetting that the narrator of the story was Fielding as his voice kept being buried, and I had to dig to find him. He, along with other strong characters, became the quintessence of moral sentiment. I found the vibe throughout to be on a monotone level, even at its most climatic moments, and I think the reason for that is for the very fact that, along the way, I lost Fielding Bliss.

I wanted to feel more for the characters and care more about their fate, but the constant flux of moral values, be it negative or positive values, somewhat silenced the real story. I found the allegorical implications throughout transcended that of the story on exhibit, that being the breakdown of a close-knit family on trial for the hardship that has befallen the residents of their hometown. The author certainly has a keen eye for the paradoxes of our world - a meeting place of perfection and imperfection - but I really just wanted an uninterrupted portrayal of the world inhabited by Fielding Bliss and his quirky family from the mind of Fielding Bliss himself, and I don't feel I got that - not a hundred percent of the time anyway.

I wanted more of Fielding's perspective on his reality, which I feel would have pulled me into the story more as opposed to causing me to disconnect from the story every so often. Despite that, I found the book to be a good read, and I think a lot of folks will enjoy it.


Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Source: Review Copy
Content: Some mild profanity

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