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The Summer that Melted Everything

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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.

310 pages, Hardcover

First published July 26, 2016

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About the author

TIFFANY MCDANIEL is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and woods of the land she knows. She is a poet, novelist, visual artist and the author of The Summer that Melted Everything, Betty, and On the Savage Side. She lives with six cats and a dog surrounded by the trees and wildlife that she loves. When not writing, she may be found in the garden.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,176 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer Masterson.
200 reviews1,127 followers
August 9, 2016
I am a mess! I mean an emotional wreck! I have a migraine from crying! This is the best book that I have come across since "A Little Life". If I could give it 10 Stars I would! 11? I cannot believe that this is a debut novel!

I'm not going to give a plot summery. I think this book transcends it's plot. I want to share my feelings. This book moved me in a way I haven't been moved in so long. I listened to the audio version. For an audio to be this good it takes one heck of a narrator. Mark Bramhall told this story with such feeling. I can't even begin to describe how this book consumed me for the past few days.

I do want to share Larry Hoffer's review with you. Please read it. It gives a more thorough synopsis of the book and it is the reason I purchased this audio. Here it is...https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I don't understand why this is not on more people's radar!? It needs to be read!!! Forget the Devil accepting an invitation to come to this town in Ohio. This book is so much more!

Tiffany McDaniel has one Hell of a career ahead of her. No pun intended! Lol!

This book made me think a lot about what is going on politically right now. All the fear and hate. How love can conquer fear.

Put it at the top of your to read list!!!

** Note that there is the death of an animal in the book.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,439 reviews78.1k followers
April 3, 2017
I think something deep in my soul has shifted after reading this book. My gut is still churning after turning the final page 2 days ago, and its been years since a book brought me to the brink of tears. I read more psychological thrillers and dark fiction than one human likely should, yet none of that seemed as horrific as what I just read. Don’t misunderstand- this isn’t some bloodbath horror tale with cheesy specters of the devil and his minions. The only apparition in this story is a 13 year old boy, but back to that in a minute.

“The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat was not. It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?”

Just like the blurb states, the setting is summer of 1984, and the book describes what was going on in the media during this time. I really loved all the small details she took the time to include; this seemed to put the level of writing over the top for me. Autopsy Bliss (yep, his real name), father to Fielding Bliss (our narrator), has placed an ad in the local paper inviting the devil to town. The reasoning behind this is explained in the final pages of our story, so you do get all kinds of closure, but the story starts out making you scratch your head and wonder “where is this lady going to take us with this?”. Yes, then a 13 year old black boy with green eyes shows up holding said ad claiming to be the devil, but this book is not what you’re thinking it is. I admit, I saw my friend Shelby’s review and my curiosity was piqued, but I was already overloaded with NetGalley books so I figured I’d catch it some time after publication. Thankfully the author contacted me and convinced me to read it now! Fact: Chelsea never re-reads books. Fact: Chelsea is going to have to re-read this book sometime in the future.

“You can tell a lot about a man by what he does with a snake…
A snake that could harm you, you don’t have much choice to kill. You wouldn’t be able to leave a cobra in your sock drawer. But a snake that is no threat will greatly define the man who decides to kill it anyways.”

The characters are what really sold me on this story. Each one was deep, flawed, and broken in their own ways, yet still lovable as I felt attached to each member of the Bliss family, including Sal. We get to see snippets of Fielding’s life as he ages from memories he shares with us as a man in his 80’s. We know early on that something major will happen at the end of the summer of ’84, and the tension grows in a slow, yet powerful way. Each chapter brought new revelations on the character’s personal struggles, as well as the impending doom that lingers over the entire town of Breathed. This story was crafted with so many real issues that were relevant then and are still relevant now- mob mentality, racism, homophobia, and the ever failing criminal justice system. The ending was nothing short of disturbing, mainly because it is so easily pictured and believable. I was completely shocked with all aspects of the ending; I did not see one thing coming with how this story concluded and it made me feel this weird cross between horrified and satisfied. I don’t want to put any spoilers in here, but I felt I had grown close to this family and was broken with them every step of the way. This is a must read that is deep, compelling, and timely for what is consuming our state of current affairs. My heart broke and wept openly as a reader, as a mother, and simply as a human being. PLEASE read this book; it will certainly be a pick in my round up for TOP 10 books I’ve read this year.

*Many thanks to author Tiffany McDaniel and St. Martin’s Press for providing my copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. Please stay tuned as I’ll be posting an interview with the author and a giveaway for a signed copy of The Summer That Melted Everything near pub day!
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
December 11, 2019
”It was a heat that didn’t just melt tangible things like ice, chocolate, Popsicles. It melted all the intangibles too. Fear, faith, anger, and those long-trusted templates of common sense. It melted lives as well, leaving futures to be slung with the dirt of the gravedigger’s shovel.”

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Slipping Away by Tiffany McDaniel. If you preorder the book you can sign up here Tiffany McDaniel's Preorder Contest to win some cool stuff including a signed print of this watercolor.

The heat wave that hit Breathed, Ohio, in 1984 was no ordinary hot spell. It was oppressive and inescapable. It was as if the cellar door to hell had been laid open beneath their feet. Sweat dripped from their pores like the tears of the damned. Tempers flared under the constant, ruthless lash of unbearable high temperatures. Reason floated away into the atmosphere and was replaced by superstition and irrationality.

And it was all Autopsy Bliss’s fault.

He did write the letter, after all.

”Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,
I cordially invite you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith,
Autopsy Bliss”

The Devil accepted.

Now Autopsy Bliss is an educated man, a lawyer in fact, but he got bit by the fire and brimstone of religion. When he issued this letter to the newspaper, did he really expect the Devil to appear before him? Did he think he could wrestle Lucifer or spar with Satan, and The Cross would assure him a fair fight?

I don’t think that Autopsy Bliss expected a creature with cloven hooves, forked tail, and horns to appear on his doorstep. Lucifer is a fallen angel, not a demon, and certainly not the creature of fairytale, or the fiendish incarnation he has been depicted in films, or the lurid spectacle he has become on the covers of pulp novels.

It turns out he is a thirteen year old black boy with green eyes. He was, in fact, the same age as Fielding Bliss. He calls himself Sal.

”If looks were to be believed, he still was just a boy. Something of my age, though from his solemn quietude, I knew he was old in the soul. A boy whose black crayon would be the shortest in his box.”

Autopsy might have had a more realistic vision of Satan in his mind than the cartoon version, but it still took some mental gymnastics to even begin to believe that Sal was the Devil. The heat has eroded minds. Logic is a bonfire. Familiar perceptions are a blaze. When things start to go wrong for people, they start to believe that the implausible is suddenly the only possible explanation.

Fielding’s mother Stella hasn’t left the house in twelve years. When she withdrew from the world, she decided to bring the world to her by turning each room of her house into a different country. Grand is Fielding’s older brother, a young man on the cusp of the rest of his life. He is a God of the ballfield, but also a man of character and sensitivity that makes him so much more than just the sum of his parts. Fielding worships him, as he should. Grand is someone we can all aspire to be more like.

He is a worthy sacrifice.

”A summer’s day, and with the setting sun
Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star”
---Milton, Paradise Lost

It is one thing to never find paradise, but of course it is quite another thing to have found it and lost it. For a family named Bliss, they have watched the gates of Eden shimmer behind them and disappear.

Sal becomes the third son.

I think what the people of Breathed forgot about was that the concept of the Devil is manifested in all of us. You might not see him when you look in the mirror dead on, but turn your head to the side and look out of the corner of your eye, and you might catch a glimpse of him. He is reflected in your fingernails when the light is just right. Sometimes, if you close your eyes down to slits, you can see him in the swirls of your pancake. He stares at us from the darkness, from the bowel of a tree, or through the eyes of an owl. You can’t kill him. You can’t kill the light that has fallen to darkness.

Why would God let you?

”People always ask, Why does God allow suffering? Why does He allow a child to be beaten? A woman to cry? A holocaust to happen? A good dog to die painfully? Simple truth is, He wants to see for Himself what we’ll do. He’s stood up the candle, put the devil at the wick, and now He wants to see if we blow it out or let it burn down. God is suffering’s biggest spectator.”

The town begins to suffer from mass insanity. Call it the heat, but there is this dark desire in too many of us that rises to the surface, unchecked, when we are challenged.

Tiffany McDaniel might be a young writer, but this is no raw first novel. She is wise with bone deep perceptions of who we are and who we become when we allow hysteria or religious fervor to dictate our actions. She writes with conviction and complexity that forced this reader to reread sentences and paragraphs to better appreciate the uniquely, creative ways she composes her thoughts. The setting is in the North, but some of the Southern Gothic of the deep South leaped over the Mason-Dixon line into Ohio. I also could swear I witnessed the ghost of Douglas Spaulding running through the woods with Fielding Bliss and saw the flash of his bare feet as he dived back into the pages of Dandelion Wine. I thought I saw Shirley Jackson lost in the loose limbs of the mob...her eyes as big as dinner plates and her mouth opened in a.... ”That was when the screaming started. They were screaming cheers, we were screaming tears, and Sal was screaming fear. A rhyme of the ages.”

Who among us can stop them? Who can wiggle a screwdriver between the door and the jam and let the cooling balm of reason flood the hallways of a fevered mind?

The author and NetGalley provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tiffany McDaniel was gracious enough to agree to answer a few of my questions about the novel. Below is a short interview I conducted with her.

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Tiffany McDaniel

Jeffrey Keeten:As I was reading your book I couldn't help thinking about Dandelion Wine. Have I been out in the heat too long or am I right about this book being somewhat of a homage to the Ray Bradbury book?

Tiffany McDaniel:I love Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, so I’m beyond thrilled that you’ve brought it up. I always say I want to be buried with the novel, have it in the clutches of my ghost to carry forth in to the great beyond. Having read it many times, I’ve always wanted to write a story about boys coming-of-age in the summertime. Those two events seem to parallel one another as if summer exists in childhood itself. On the surface Dandelion Wine is about boys coming-of-age, but what Bradbury does so well is threading that melancholic undertone through his verse, his own bittersweet brand that makes his stories and his story-telling the mark of a true master. Life and death, happiness and sadness, these are the things that permeate both Bradbury’s novel and my own. No one can ever surpass Bradbury’s beautiful writing and story, but perhaps my story is a way of recognizing the beautiful force that has been Dandelion Wine in my life.

Jeffrey Keeten:Paradise Lost obviously had a heavy influence on the writing of this book. You certainly have left me thinking I need to schedule a reread of PL. You also mentioned Orwell's 1984 in the book. In thinking about the scope of this book what other books would you say had a heavy influence in the creation of this book?

Tiffany McDaniel:I first read Milton’s epic poem when I was in my early twenties. I was immediately drawn to it because it’s about that which has always fascinated me. The fall from grace. The very thing that is said to have cast all the curses upon us as human beings, and put the sins within reach. I always title my chapters in my novels, and when I was thinking of the chapter titles for The Summer that Melted Everything, “Paradise Lost” immediately came to mind. How could it not be the perfect partner for this summer? Though I do hope I have made Milton proud by including his beautiful quotes, quotes which do outshine my own words by a billion, sparkling miles.

As far as Orwell’s 1984, it’s one of those required readings that most everybody has in school. I was so fascinated by it, if only because the year 1984 has passed already, but also because it was a novel predicting a certain state of affairs where citizens are manipulated and all independent thought is a crime. It’s hard to talk about 1984 the novel and its reason for being in The Summer that Melted Everything without giving any spoilers away, but I’ll just say that both Orwell’s novel and my novel speak of that herd mentality. How easy it is to come about and how threatening it is to individual choice.

As far as other influencers on The Summer that Melted Everything, I can’t think of another book in particular, but reading in general just adds layer after layer to one’s soul. And with a book like The Summer that Melted Everything where we’re looking at the balance between good and evil, well those are things we see every day on the nightly news. Look no further than our daily life, and we are surrounded by the fuel to write about chaos and peace, good and bad. If anything, the book of life itself is the spinning wheel to a story like this.

Jeffrey:The book is set in Ohio, but it has such a Southern Gothic feeling to it that I kept thinking the geography could have easily been set in the Deep South such as Donna Tartt's home state of Mississippi or Flannery O'Connor's Georgia or Harper Lee's Alabama. You must have encountered some of that Gothic magical realism in Ohio?

Tiffany: Breathed, Ohio, the fictional town in the novel is based on my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio on the hilly acreage and in the cinderblock house my father was left to him by his parents. Southern Ohio, while in a northern state, does very much have that southern United State twang to it. “Ain’t” is as abundant as the wildflowers in the fields, and bullfrogs are the music of the night. It’s a very front porch type of place. It’s a place that has shaped me as an author. I’ve said before, cut me open and there will be a release of fireflies and moon-shine. In many ways, southern Ohio was a magical place to me because it was so different from the more northern part of Ohio where I lived and went to school. That southern portion, the foothills of the Appalachians, is a part of Ohio that has its own magical myths. I was told the hills were full of tigers, released there by a zoo gone belly-up. I would stand on the creek edge and see a gar go swimming by, thinking it was an alligator. Added to this, I’ve always had a gothic mind. Wishing I could live in a derelict mansion with velvet curtains and Shirley Jackson spires. Wolves howling, spiders webbing, magic churning night after night…

Jeffrey: Autopsy Bliss goes on my list of greatest character names in literary history. As I was reading the book I started jotting down the character names because I was struck by the unusual nature of most of the names. Do you start with a name or do they sometimes remain nebulous personalities in search of the right name for a while as you write?

Tiffany: First off, thank you for the incredibly wonderful compliment of Autopsy’s name. I’m sure Autopsy himself would be quite pleased. When I start writing the characters, I do have to have their name from the beginning. Having their name really helps to create and flush out the character. I can’t write them without a name. It’s like walking in dark woods by myself, calling for the characters to come out from the trees. But if I don’t have a name to call, who is there to come out?

Jeffrey: I jotted down this question while I was still in the early stages of reading the book. Would you want to live with the Bliss Family? They are ethereally wonderful, but of course the tragedies that find them as the plot unfolds probably answers that question. This is truly a book about bad things happening to good people. Are they still walking around in your head or have you managed to lock them in a back room of your mind so you can move onto your next novel?

Tiffany: To answer your first question, I would want to live with the Bliss family, if only because I love them all so much. Even with the tragedies that reshape them as a family, I would live with them. Be their daughter, their sister, their best friend, the one crying with them, laughing with them. As the author, I’ve already done all these things. I’ve already felt like I’ve lived in the house with them. What is home, if not with the people we love? I will always share a life with the Bliss Family, as I do my real family. To me there is no difference, because while fictional, the Bliss family exists for me.

I always say my characters feel real to me. Maybe I won’t get to physically interact with them in this world, but I feel as if in another plane of the universe, or even the afterlife, I’ll be able to speak to them, to recognize them as people who have lived full lives from womb to coffin. I always say my characters do not begin with the first page I’ve written. They do not end with the last. They existed before and they exist after the book. There are moments and experiences they have that none of will ever know as author and reader. In every way, they are as fully human as any of us. And they are always with me. Even when I write another novel. They are there. They just politely sit down, so new characters can stand up.

Jeffrey: Speaking of next novel, where does Tiffany McDaniel go from here?

Tiffany: I have eight completed novels. I’m working on my ninth right now. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. I spent eleven years struggling to get published. Rejection after rejection made me fear I never would be published. So much heart-ache and pain on the journey to publication, I can’t believe I’m about to be a published novelist. Publishing does move at a snail’s pace, and even with the contract I’ve waited two years for the book to move through the publishing house to the shelf. I’m thirty-one now, having waited in total thirteen years to see one of my novels on the shelf. So where I go from here is to just keep writing. Hoping The Summer that Melted Everything does well enough for me to have the other books published as well. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s about a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic, and end up in my land of Ohio of all places. While here they create their own camp of judgment where they serve as both the guards and the prisoners. It’s a story of surviving the guilt that threatens to undo us all. More so, it’s about surviving love and the time when lions once stood as men.

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Profile Image for Swrp.
662 reviews
April 9, 2022
"Up I go, up so high,
I pray I do not fall and die.

But if I should, let it be said,
I'm mighty missed, now that I'm dead."
~ from Tiffany McDaniel's The Summer That Melted Everything

(Hot weather/ Source - Steve Rasnic Tem, Pinterest)

"It was a heat that didn't just melt tangible things like ice, chocolate, popsicles. It melted all the intangibles too. Fear, faith, anger, and those long-trusted templates of common sense."

The Summer That Melted Everything is beautiful, poetic, profound, captivating, heart-breaking and also heart-warming! Brilliant!!

In the summer of 1984, the year when it was so hot in the town of Breathed (Breath-ed), Ohio, that all the tangibles, intangibles and everything else were melting. This was also the year, Fielding Bliss meets and becomes best friends with Sal, the devil.

This book will provide the reader with an everlasting and thought-provoking perspective about life - the simpler things like eating ice cream or appreciating the beauty of a flower, and also the deeper things like understanding a loved one and being grateful.

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Few favourite lines:

“that time of panic would always be remembered as the moment when the bright, bright stars could not save the dark, dark sky.”
“You looked at her and knew when she went to bed, she`d rather be blowing out a candle than flicking a light switch.”
“It`s a waste of time to live better when you`ve got no one to care for and no one to care for you.”
“The boy who always did what was expected of him in every aspect of his life. He looked like a heartbreaker, so he broke hearts. He looked like a brain, so he never missed making the honor roll, and he looked like an athlete, so he became the one Breathed pinned its Major League hopes to.”
“Our hair, in its rib-cage shape, fell in a blackness that wisdom calls night. Its winding way was a narrative of the hills, it was the snakes swimming the river, the crow strapped with worms.”
“What you see before you is what lost reflects when it looks into a muddy puddle.”
“He was more field than town. More old soul pasture than adolescent attitude.”
“Even a devil`s heart isn`t just for beating.”
“The pain is smart enough to poet out a space, where bruises are verse and rhymes are moans over and over again.”
“To have hope raised, only to realize there is no hope is to be had. Hope is just a beautiful instance in the myth of the second chance.”
“Because those laces are everything, and when everything gets untied, you don`t stop tripping just because the shoes are off.”
“You`re not going to kill her. Death has already started. You`re not initiating anything that isn`t already there. If you`re waiting for God to take care of it, He won`t. He doesn`t do that. By letting her suffer, you risk being God. People always ask, why does God allow suffering? Why does He allow a child to be beaten? A woman to cry? A holocaust to happen? A good dog to die painfully? Simple truth is, He wants to see for Himself what we`ll do. He`s stood up the candle, put the devil at the wick, and now He wants to see if we blow it out or let it burn down. God is suffering`s biggest spectator.”
“She`s still now. Like water healed of its ripples. She`s calm and at peace.”
“They say if you wanna get things done, you gotta get hold of the devil.”
“The finale of fear is first neared by small labors of bravery.”
“Sometimes I think I see your shoulder. Then I realize it`s just a jar of honey. I scream out your name and am certain I see your mole, but it`s only the last grape on the vine. I grab hold of your neck, but it`s no more than a piece of rope. I reach toward your rib, but it`s simply a grain of rice. I hold your hand, sorrowed to find it is my own.”
“Pain is our most intimate encounter. It lives on the very inside of us, touching everything that makes us. It claims your bones, it masters your muscles, it reels in your strength, and you never see it again.”
“wonder why Hebrews 13 was in a freezer in the first place. I would say because I wanted to save it from that summer, from melting away. Our love forever frozen and safe in that freezing.”
“Sometimes the briefest touch is the one that lasts the longest.”
“The boy can go nowhere near happiness when the girl he loves is not willing to go there with him. He may grow up, borrow a tuxedo, a sunrise, a tropical honeymoon, but they`ll never be his without her.”
“She was his truth, his wisdom, and he was stupid without her. Just an idiot with a dumb life.”
“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.”
“You`ve got to be crazy once in a while, or you`ll go insane.”
“We live each day with thoughts we think are certain to the core, Fielding. But what if we are sincerely wrong? Take a look at this cross. We are told it`s a cross, so surely it must be a cross. But what if it isn`t? What if we`re wrong? What if this whole time we`ve just been hanging a lowercased t on our walls?”

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Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews715 followers
February 2, 2020
I really really loved this book. I know people didn't like the metaphorical writing but I always have been a sucker for poetic writing. I like when books make me question the way I think about things and I enjoy symbolism and when things are woven so intricately with the plot line. Like the story is just so well woven and elegant and the author just expressed things so eloquently. It all just fit together so perfectly and I really felt affected when reading the book. Definitely a favorite.
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
July 7, 2018
after seeing the news on mel's review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

i figured i would help spread the word, too, because this book could definitely use an award. if you agree, vote for it here:


”That’s the ending of the story,” he said. “Something broken.”

this is a darkly satisfying southern gothic tale of what transpired when a lawyer named autopsy bliss invited the devil to the small town of breathed, ohio in 1984.

the problem with extending an invitation to the devil is that he might just accept. and he might not turn out to be the worst thing living in your town.

i’d heard nothing but great things about this book here on goodreads, and i’d been wanting to read it for ages, but had been TRYING not to buy hardcovers because i am oh-so-poor. so when i was offered a copy by the author, it was like all the book angels answering my book-prayers.

as it turned out, the delay was a blessing, and the timing could not have been better - nothing beats finishing a book taking place during a horrible heat wave on the day a blizzard hits, and i loved every sweaty bit of this.

the story itself is fantastic, but the getting there might not be for all readers. much like one of my favorite books, The Book of Night Women, in order to appreciate this story to its fullest, you have to completely give yourself over to it. with night women, it’s a dialect thing - you cannot, as a reader, balk at the unfamiliar slang or cadence or you will struggle. with this one, it’s more stylistic - you have to embrace the florid, rollicking prose that is the vehicle for her storytelling and just go with it, or it’ll quicksand you.

the character names are bananas (in a good way), and the writing is overblown and turgid as hell (in a mostly good way). her style is completely her own, and like many debuts, her prose occasionally gets away from her, but when it succeeds - and it succeeds more often than not - it is the perfect way to tell this tale; its words swelling and running rampant in the humidity; the ribbons in a woman's hair indulgently described:

The way they wove, they could sometimes look like slithering in an undergrowth. It was as if she were the infected Eden, the snake still turning through Eve..

the less-successful flipside to this indulgence are the few instances written more for the reader's benefit than what would be natural for the characters. for example:

”How do you say this place?” he asked.

“Whatcha mean?”

“I mean, the name of the town. How do you say it?”

“Oh, well, most folks think it’s pronounced like the past tense of breathin’. You know, like you just breathed somethin’ in. But it’s not like that at all. Say breath. and then ed. Breath-ed. Say it so the tongue don’t recognize such a large break between Breath and ed. Breathed.”

is that how a thirteen-year-old boy would answer a simple freaking question? probably not, but you’re in this world, with these characters and my advice to you is to go. with. it.

because it’s worth it, for all the beautifully-written parts like this:

”…the thing about breaking something that no one much thinks about is that more shadows are created. The bowl when intact was one shadow. One single shadow. Now each piece will have a shadow of its own. My God, so many shadows have been made. Small little slivers of darkness that seem at once to be larger than the bowl ever was. That’s the problem of broken things. The light dies in small ways, and the shadows - well, they always win big in the end.”

each chapter opens with a fragment of milton’s Paradise Lost, the original apologist for the devil. and the devil who ultimately answers autopsy’s invitation comes in the shape of a thirteen-year-old green-eyed black boy named sal, who befriends autopsy’s son fielding and is one of the most sympathetic characters in this town of breathed. (that’s 'breath-ed', folks)

if the the problem with extending an invitation to the devil is that he might just accept, the problem with a sympathetic devil is one of accountability - if the devil is a likable little boy, he becomes less useful as a scapegoat for that brand of “the devil made me do it” washing-off of personal responsibility, and the evils of the world are revealed to be either directly due to human failings or unfortunate accidents that often result from these failings: fear, prejudice, misunderstandings, pain, revenge.

not that everyone will see it that way - the scapegoat is a very tempting place to lay the blame, and no one wants to confront the uncomfortable realization that evil was already simmering in the town before the devil showed up. and there's evil aplenty, from relatively small transgressions like infidelity to much, much bigger ones.

it’s a dark book told in a beautiful way - split between the events of that summer and the adult life of fielding bliss in the years following. the 1984 parts are wonderful - sad and chewy and wrapped up admirably. the reveal of the significance of sal’s birthday gift to fielding’s mother stella is a heartbreaker, and the ice cream reveal even more so. and granny… dear lord, granny… there’s less resolution to the adult fielding’s story, which was a little disappointing, but the quote i opened the review with kinda sums it all up:

”That’s the ending of the story,” he said. “Something broken.”

a fantastic debut and i want more...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,574 reviews5,904 followers
June 9, 2016
I thought this was a young adult book when I requested it from Netgalley. Umm it's not. Not that I have a problem with that, I love some dark 'stick-your-head-in-the-oven' books.

Dark is good sometimes.

Palm Springs commercial photography

This one though, took me awhile to read because I had to put it aside several times because dang..
Palm Springs commercial photography

I will say that 1984 was a year that understood how to make history. Apple launched it's Macintosh computer for the masses, two astronauts walked the stars like gods, and singer Marvin Gaye, who sang about how sweet it was to be loved, was shot through the heart and killed by his father .

Fielding Bliss's father invited the devil to town. Fielding is thirteen at the time and his attorney father Autopsy (yes that is his name) is down after a case he was trying turned out to be something totally different than what he thought it was.
Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,
I cordially invited you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith,
Autopsy Bliss

The thing is? The devil does come to town. Along with the heat. A thirteen year old black child with the oddest green eyes shows up in answer to Autopsy's letter. Claiming to be the devil himself. The sheriff thinks he is just a missing boy and starts trying to find out where he is from but can't find any family looking for him.

Sal is completely not what Fielding nor his father were picturing when they thought of as the devil.
If the devil was going to come, I expected to see the myth of him. A demon with an asphalt shine. He'd be fury. A chill. A bad cough. Cujo at the car window, a ticket at the Creepshow booth, a leap into the depth of night.

Who knew how much a thirteen year old boy could change a town in the course of a summer? Sal is taken in by Fielding's family and becomes like a son to the family. The boys become pests to their older brother Grand and best buddies to each other.
Palm Springs commercial photography

But you have the town. Who is stifling under the heat and hatred is burning.

Sal's wisdom is much older than his age and it seems like trouble follows him no matter what he does.
"You can tell a lot about a man by what he does with a snake. A snake that could harm you, you don't have much choice to kill. You wouldn't be able to leave a cobra in your sock drawer. But a snake that is no threat will greatly define the man who decides to kill it anyways."

This book is so well written. You can tell that I liked it by the number of quotes I stole and put on here! Be in the mood to read it though, because it gets in your head and then you start thinking and stuff and it hurts my head to think about stuff.

"You can imagine anything you want in the dark. You can imagine your father loves you, you can imagine your mother is not disappointed, you can imagine that you are...significant. That you mean somethin' to someone. That's all I ever wanted, Fielding. To matter. That is all I've ever wanted."

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review

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None of my friends have read this book yet...they should. I have no clue what you guys are waiting on. So I'm picking a this review because it's awesome. I fibbed! My friend Laura read it!
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews515 followers
September 1, 2021
Dirge for the Q anon Crowd
Published in Summer 2016, an omen of Trump’s Election
I wanted to hear the water go down the drains so I wouldn't have to hear myself doing the same.
Miss McDaniel peppers baroque prose with such eyerollers: "something about his eyes made me think of Russia. Perhaps because they were so large, the largest country in the world of his face."

No coherent theme gels as the novel tosses in every social ill, as if collected in a file by the author over the years. She gives the sappy, sensationalistic treatment--rife with maudlin metaphors, hokey similes, pathetic puppyisms--to a massive array of social subjects, including: teen suicide, homophobia, racism, animal cruelty, disability discrimination, major depression, cuckoldry, religious bigotry, achondroplasiaphobia (a fear of short people), heresy, sexual promiscuity, psychological fears, xenophobia, alcohol abuse, AIDS, mass suicide, and the mentality of a mob.

Few novelists, even those much more experienced than Ms. McDaniel, are capable of adequately exploring even half of these in the same novel. While writing stories addressing social evils is admirable, the overbreadth dilutes them to scant social messages, overly didactic and pedantic.

A man named Autopsy Bliss (no joke) writes a letter to the local newspaper in the summer of 1984 inviting the Devil to the rural southern Ohio town of Breathed (pronounced "Breath Ed"). A few days later, in reply, a 12-year-old African American boy shows up saying he is Satan.

Autopsy's son Fielding narrates the novel and, at thirteen years old, reminded me of the naiveté of 5 year old Opie in year 1 of "The Andy Griffith Show." This is the novel's only character who the author develops in any respect, but unfortunately into a mawkish tragedian who sees each moment as doomed and speaks in mushy hyperbole, so overwrought it sometimes approaches hilarity, e.g., "the only thing longer were his fingers, which were tall and grasslike when his hands were up. Perhaps that's why his palms were always a bit moist. They were the wetlands and his fingers the bulrushes that grew at the edges of them."

Besides the young ‘un who refers in 3d person to himself as "the Devil," the remaining denizens of Breathed constitute the largest collection of shallow stereotyped characters since the "Diversity Day" episode in season 1 of The Office.

The mother is a gullible dimwit home maker, the novel's two gay men, a 16-year-old boy and a reporter in his late 20s, rush to the woods immediately upon discovering each other, and the entire remainder of the cast is a town full of white Southerner stereotypes, the most racist, uneducated, idiotic, hateful, homophobic, simple, alcoholic, xenophobic, child-beating, animalistic, wife-beating, slobbering hillbillies, rednecks, hicks, yucks and bubbas, ever to air in 1960s news footage.

Paint by numbers character traits, reminding me of this exchange from the film "Do the Right Thing,":
Mookie: Dago, wop, guinea, garlic-breath, pizza-slingin', spaghetti-bendin', Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, nonsingin' motherfucker.

Pino: You gold-teeth-gold-chain-wearin', fried-chicken-and-biscuit-eatin', monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast-runnin', high-jumpin', spear-chuckin', 360-degree-basketball-dunkin' titsun spade Moulan Yan. Take your fuckin' pizza-pizza and go the fuck back to Africa.

Stevie: You little slanty-eyed, me-no-speaky-American, own-every-fruit-and-vegetable-stand-in-New-York, bullshit, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Summer Olympics '88, Korean kick-boxing son of a bitch.

Officer Long: You Goya bean-eating, 15-in-a-car, 30-in-an-apartment, pointed shoes, red-wearing, Menudo, mire-mire Puerto Rican cocksucker. Yeah, you!

Sonny: It's cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, "How I'm doing," chocolate-egg-cream-drinking, bagel-and-lox, B'nai B'rith Jew asshole.

These offensive stereotypes display at best laziness and/or, worse, an ignorance of the flaw and falsity inherent in casting a dark net over an entire category of people.

If not offended by the novel's across-the-board drawing of its characters and lack of any development, one might be nauseated by the overwrought writing.

If you choose to read it anyway, Gloom, Despair and Agony on You.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,004 reviews36k followers
November 14, 2016
Ok....update: A SMALL REVIEW ... but read OTHERS. This community has written amazing ones!!!

I'm changing my vote -- SO FAR....( still waiting to read The Nix and The Gentleman From Moscow)... but as of today....I vote this book ( of books I've read) , BEST FICTION in the Goodreads voting.


"Why, upon hearing the word 'Devil', did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see the lake? A flower growing by the 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 flowers turn to own the name".

There is a level of sadness in this book ----fear and despair----grief ----loss---
mourning----bereavement----leaving everyone vulnerable as though sorrow is the price of life itself.

The last 20% or so of this book is where I almost couldn't breathe. It's a huge section of the entire novel's power....taking us deeper into an emotional state of a combination of tears and numbness.

"The Summer that Melted Everything" includes childhood charming dialogue, warmth, family bonds, friendship, humor, compassion, and mystery in the beginning pages ---
Then the story begins to shift - suffering and scars surface. The book touches on AIDS, homophobic, racism, and violence. Innocence is lost to hatred and bigotry.

The beautiful writing is a gift.....contributing compassion between good and evil in our world.

Very powerful. One of the best books I've read this year!

Thank You *Dan*...( your encouragement made a difference!!!) ..... and to the many friends in this community who read this before me - and wrote some of the most gorgeous heartfelt outstanding reviews... one would ever want to read about any book!

HIGHLY SUGGESTED! Worth every penny! It was 'my' mistake when I was sooo sure I wouldn't care for a book about a devil ... I had never wanted to read it --- even though I kept seeing high rating reviews. I was wrong. THIS IS AS POWERFUL - and EXCEPTIONAL as readers have been saying!!!!

AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! will write review later! Back into my reading cave for now!
There are already FANTASTIC reviews of this book............
It wasn't anything I thought it would be ---(the book I most resisted reading all year)!
A thousand times BETTER!!!
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
November 17, 2016
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

It's the summer of 1984 in the small town of Breathed, Ohio. Fielding Bliss is a fairly typical teenager until the day his father, Autopsy (is Autopsy Bliss not one of the best character names you've ever heard?), the town's prosecutor, puts in the newspaper an invitation for the devil to visit Breathed.

"If the devil was going to come, I expected to see the myth of him. A demon with an asphalt shine. He'd be fury. A chill. A bad cough. Cujo at the car window, a ticket at the Creepshow booth, a leap into the depth of night."

Imagine Fielding's surprise when a tattered-looking young boy arrives in town, claiming to be the devil. It seems hard to believe, and many think the boy, who calls himself Sal ("From the beginning of Satan and the first step into Lucifer. Sa-L."), is probably a runaway or a kidnap victim, not the devil himself. But he brings an unending heatwave to town, and suddenly, disasters begin to occur in his presence, although no one is quite sure whether he is causing the incidents or if it is people's reactions and fears that are to blame.

It isn't long before Sal becomes an integral part of the Bliss family, but their fellow Breathed residents are less than enamored of this fact, as they get riled up by a neighbor and former friend of the Blisses. As the heatwave continues ceaselessly, tempers flare, damaging insults are hurled, friendships end, rumors are spread, and Fielding finds himself suddenly confused by his family. Sal continues to maintain that he is the devil, and he brings about changes in people willing to talk to him, leading them to self-discoveries that change their lives. And as Fielding uncovers secrets his family and others hold, he knows he should react a certain way, but instead he acts like a typical teenager, which only adds fuel to the fire. So many things happen that remain unmentioned by his family, and this lack of discussion causes even more hurt and harm.

The Summer That Melted Everything is utterly mesmerizing, and it took me by surprise just how much it touched me. It's a book touching on powerful issues—racism, homophobia, fear of AIDS, agoraphobia, child abuse, religion—yet it never seems heavy-handed or preachy. This is a tremendously moving book; while much of the plot may not be surprising, Tiffany McDaniel did such a great job giving complexity and heart to her characters that you can't really distinguish which characters you should root for and which ones you should view as villains. I completely understood what motivated everyone to act the way they did.

The book is narrated by a much older Fielding, who reminisces about that life-changing summer, and the scars it left him with throughout his life. At times it was hard to distinguish when the plot was unfolding as it happened and when Fielding was recounting memories of other times in his life, and the emotional trauma Fielding suffered makes his older self a fairly unsympathetic character periodically. But when the story is fully told, much of his motivation becomes clear (although some plot twists confused me a little).

I've often commented that I read from a place of emotion, and if a book is well-written and it touches me emotionally, it resonates for me more than one that does not. It will be a long time before I'll be able to get The Summer That Melted Everything out of my mind. This book might not be for everyone, but if you open your mind, you'll be affected and moved.

Tiffany McDaniel, NetGalley, and St. Martin's Press provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,921 reviews10.6k followers
July 21, 2016
During a heat wave in the summer of 1984, Fielding Bliss's father invites the devil to town. When a 13 year old boy shows up claiming to be the devil, the Ohio town of Breathed will never be the same again...

I passed on this when I originally saw it on Netgalley, mostly because of Autopsy Bliss's name. Seriously? Autopsy? Anyway, Tiffany McDaniel emailed me a review request, mentioning how hard it was for first time authors to get reviews, and I caved in after my Grinch-like heart grew two sizes.

I honestly had no idea what to expect with this but I knew I'd struck gold right away. I read a lot of books where the prose is nothing spectacular. I could tell this one was special from the first paragraph or so.

The Summer That Melted Everything is Paradise Lost written by Flannery O'Connor, a southern Gothic tale with the power of a hurricane. It's a tale of families, racism, religion, small town mob mentalities, the evil that people hold in their hearts, and a lot of other serious themes.

The Summer That Melted Everything is Fielding Bliss' fall from grace, from being an optimistic 13 year old to be a broken adult decades later. The devil's arrival, Sal's arrival, turns his life upside town.

The Bliss family and their relationship with Sal fuels the narrative. Fielding Bliss and Sal are fast friends. Sal, devil or not, is wise beyond his years. Father Autopsy is a lawyer and mother Stella is a homemaker who is afraid to go outside. Brother Grand is good at everything, seemingly the boy every girl wants to be with. Sal's arrival changes all of them irrevocably.

There is a lot of emotional packed into this book and it sure dredged up some emotions in me. The part with the dog was just the tip of the emotional iceberg. It's thought provoking and has some serious weight to it. As I wrote earlier, it reads a lot like Flannery O'Connor and I felt wrung out after reading it.

The building hysteria of the townsfolk toward Sal reminds me of Needful Things a bit. I had no idea how the book would end but I knew it would be comparable to the destruction of Castle Rock. And it was. The last 20% was like watching the end of Old Yeller four or five times.

The Summer that Melted Everything is a first novel that reads like a lost classic. A bleak, emotional classic. Five out of Five stars.

Note: You can read my interview with Tiffany McDaniel here.
Profile Image for Nat.
553 reviews3,177 followers
June 5, 2020
“Don’tcha wanta live forever?”
“I’m the devil. I am already forever.”


Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year his father, Autopsy Bliss, invited Breathed’s own devil.

“Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,
I cordially invite you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith,
Autopsy Bliss”

And on a particularly warm day in June 1984 (side note: I love it when a book is set in the same month period as when I’m reading it), our main character meets the devil.

“Are you sayin’ that you’re the devil?”
“It is not my first name, but it is one of them.” He reached down to scratch his thigh. It was then I noticed the denim was worn at the knees more than anywhere else. Over top the wear were layers of dirt, as if kneeling were all the time for him.
“You’re lyin’.” I searched his head for horns. “You’re just a boy.”
His fingers twitched. “I was once, if that counts.”

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation.

To say that this book has a unique premise is an understatement. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I simply loved every second I spent reading The Summer That Melted Everything.

I definitely took my time with this book in order to savor each and every word. It all felt so crucial to the flow of the story.

I also have to mention the writing, but I feel like no words of mine will do enough justice to capture its beauty. Tiffany McDaniel created such an atmospheric, eerie and whimsical read— I’m seriously at a loss for words.


Here’s one instance in particular that captures the writing perfectly:

“I cleared my throat and introduced the boy by naming him the devil.
“Fielding, I didn’t quite hear you correctly.”
“I said devil, all right.” I shifted the bag of groceries to my other arm as Elohim drew down the porch steps, slow and at a slant like he was walking in a large gown that he had to be careful not to step on the edge of lest he fall.”

That last sentence has just such a wonderfully specific description.

Also, I loved how clever it was that the neighbor’s name was Grayson Elohim ('Elohim' in Hebrew).

And I really want to mention another instance I loved, because I’m weak, and the writer’s words are magnificent:

“The days … they’ve been blurring together.”
“Just hang a calendar on your wall.”
“The walls of hell are not like other walls. I tore a picture of the ocean out from a magazine and hung it on my wall once. An ocean is a good life place. Everyone always seems happy there. And for a moment, I was happy with my picture, but then the blue sky turned gray. The waves, once calm, took a turn to rage. Then came the screams. As I looked closer, I saw the screams came from men drowning in the water.”

How does one make words work this beautifully???

Also also, the familial relationships in this book were spectacular. I kept wanting to delve deeper and know more about each family member— and it all started with the grandma (whom I loved), she was such a unique addition:

“Autopsy is an acutely strange name for a man to have, but his mother was an acutely strange woman. Even more, she was an acutely strange religious woman who used the Bible as a stethoscope to hear the pulse of the devil in the world around her.
The sounds could be anything: The wind knocking over a tin can. The clicking of rain on the windowpane. The erratic heartbeat of a jogger passing by. Sometimes the things we believe we hear are really just our own shifting needs. Grandmother needed to hear the spook of the snake so she could better believe it actually existed.”

And her son (Fielding’s father) was just as compelling to read about:

“I always thought he had too demanding a job for someone like him. We are all sensitive to a degree when it comes to the great terrible things in the world, but he was torn apart by them.

Some cases affected him more than others, like the one with the little girl who was beaten to death by her addict parents. He’d stare at those bloody crime photos over and over again, long after he put the parents away. Then one day he said he was going out.

He drove a few miles outside of Breathed to a roadside bar and said the types of things you should never say to a biker gang. He was in the hospital for six weeks. When I asked him why he did it, he used his one good hand to write I wanted to see for myself on a pad of paper because his mouth was wired shut.

His jaw would heal, as would his swollen eyes, cracked ribs, and broken kneecap. The bruises would go on their way, the blood would stop lifting to the surface, and his arm would eventually come out of that cast. But he’d still have the scar at his hairline where the beer bottle was broke. He never tried to hide this scar. He’d brush his thick brown hair back so there’d be no chance of not seeing it. He did just this as he strolled between me and the boy.”

I keep thinking about this part. The “I wanted to see for myself” gets me every time.

I’ve never encountered such a dynamic father figure in a novel before this one. To borrow Sal’s phrasing, “Compared to him, it’s as if all other men are homeless dogs that bed in the mud.”

And his quintessential wife (Fielding’s mother), Stella, was that more intriguing.

“If you wanta see her, you’ll have to go to her. Porch is the farthest she’ll come.”
“She’s afraid of the rain.”
“It’s not raining.”
“Naw, but it might start.”


“She had that tendency to be overaffectionate. It was almost like a nervous tic. It was the staying in the house that did it. She thought if she loved you enough, you’d never want to leave her, and then the house wouldn’t seem so lonely as it could be to her at times, when it was just her and the vacuum.”

And their oldest son, Grand (Fielding’s brother), was the very meaning of his name.

“Something about his eyes made me think of Russia. Perhaps because they were so large, the largest country in the world of his face. Then again, knowing what I know now, maybe it was because his eyes were so like matryoshka dolls, hiding the real him within boxes of lacquered mystery. You’d open one box and find another just the same. No matter how many boxes you took away, there was always one more.

Because I told him his eyes were Russian, he decided to learn the language and would at the most unexpected times drop Russian words in a saline accent Tolstoy would have praised, for an Ohioan at least.”

I just love it when books feature close siblings and Fielding was, as he mentioned, as in love with his older brother as any young boy could be.

The whole family gave off such an incredibly intimate feel and leaving me, once again, at a loss for words.

However, when the focus shifted from the family and instead refocused on the devil and the mystery surrounding his crimes, I felt a tiny bit let down. I personally felt more invested in the Bliss’ lives than in the conundrum that is the devil.

“Being the devil made him a target, but it also meant he had a power he didn’t have when he was just a boy. People looked at him, listened to what he said. Being the devil made him important. Made him visible. And isn’t that the biggest tragedy of all? When a boy has to be the devil in order to be significant?”

But with an unbearable heat wave in town, tensions rise and strange accidents start to occur that put the Bliss family head to head with their own personal demons.
Common sense was starting to melt away.

“People always ask, Why does God allow suffering? Why does He allow a child to be beaten? A woman to cry? A holocaust to happen? A good dog to die painfully? Simple truth is, He wants to see for Himself what we’ll do. He’s stood up the candle, put the devil at the wick, and now He wants to see if we blow it out or let it burn down. God is suffering’s biggest spectator.”

The above passage has been integrated into my heart because of its beauty and understanding.

Just… everything was told in such an astonishingly vivid way. Seriously, the amount of quotes I’ve written down from the book into my own notes is a tad excessive.

Simply put, I didn’t want this book to come to an end— so much so that I even reread the first chapter. And now I cannot wait for what Tiffany McDaniel will write next.

ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

*Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying The Summer That Melted Everything, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!*

This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,150 reviews1,686 followers
February 20, 2022

Se il diavolo ha l’aspetto di un ragazzino di tredici anni con la pelle nera e gli occhi verdi, magrolino e piccolino, vestito in una salopette che non si abbassa neppure per fare pipì, che si chiama Sal, estrema contrazione di Satana e Lucifero, che si inginocchia sul letto per pregare a mani giunte con voce terrosa che
rendeva le sue preghiere simili al taglio del fieno cui avevo assistito una volta, passando davanti a un campo. Il graffio della lama mentre viene affilata. Il fruscio dell’arco tracciato dalla falce e lo scricchiolio dell’erba recisa. Il lento, morbido movimento del rastrello che raschia la terra, raccoglie il fieno e lo affastella. E, pochi istanti dopo, le grosse balle da conservare e porre in salvo.
Allora, perché stupirsi se dio è come una specie di cotton fioc:
bianco e sottile, con una gran testa di capelli e un mucchio di peli sui piedi… Roba da pensarci due volte prima di infilarsene di nuovo uno nel naso. Anche se ti dirò che se andassimo in giro tutto il tempo con un cotton fioc in un orecchio, forse cominceremmo a comportarci in modo diverso. Avere dio nell’orecchio potrebbe renderci…

Il diavolo a Breathed, Ohio, si presenta come un ragazzino di tredici anni dalla pelle nera e gli occhi verdi.

O se un ometto piccolo e basso, che alcuni definiscono nano, che cammina sui tetti di case e chiese a riparare campanili e comignoli, ha proprio uno dei nomi di dio: Elohim.
E non c’è neppure motivo di stupirsi se Autopsy Bliss, che a me ricorda molto Atticus Finch, pubblichi a suo spese il seguente annuncio sul quotidiano locale:
Egregio Satana, Diavolo chiarissimo, esimio Lucifero, e tutte le altre croci che siete costretto a sopportare, vi invito cordialmente a Breathed, in Ohio. Terra di colline e di balle di fieno, di peccatori e di uomini capaci di perdonare. Che possiate venire in pace.
Autopsy pratica la legge, ha studiato da avvocato, è il pubblico ministero locale, e vorrebbe incontrare il diavolo per capirne di più sul bene e il male, essere certo che lui opera per il primo: pubblicando quello strano annuncio d’invito certo non prevedeva cosa avrebbe scatenato, la china che avrebbero preso le cose a partire dall’estate del 1984.

Tiffany McDaniel: Show Me Your Horns, Sal. È una delle opere pittoriche della scrittrice ispirate al suo romanzo.

Lo stesso anno del famoso romanzo di Orwell. Lo stesso anno che il virus dell’AIDS fu isolato e riconosciuto e denominato HIV. Lo stesso anno in cui cominciò il processo per il caso sull’abuso di minori della scuola McMartin, a Manhattana Beach, un po’ più a sud di Los Angeles, il processo più lungo della storia degli Stati Uniti (si concluse nel 1989), e anche il più costoso (15 milioni di dollari spesi dallo Stato della California), che si risolse in un caso di isteria collettiva.
E qui siamo sullo stesso terreno di quello che successe a Breathed, Ohio, il paese immaginario dove si svolge quasi tutta questa storia, prima di trasferirsi in Pennsylvania o in Arizona. D’altra parte, la saggezza popolare insegna a non scherzare col diavolo. È come scherzare col fuoco.
E la gente di Breathed, Ohio, fece entrambe le cose, scherzare col diavolo e scherzare col fuoco.

Tiffany McDaniel: Old Fielding, Arizona, The Great Weight Of Sorrow.

La terra di cui parla Autopsy Bliss nel suo invito è appunto l’Ohio, parte della Bible Belt, terra di protestanti ed evangelici che come dice la denominazione se non girano per strada con la bibbia in mano, l’hanno sicuramente in casa, e la sbandierano ogni volta che possono. Cristiani integralisti. Non molto diversi dagli integralisti di altre religioni. E sappiamo bene che la gente è sempre stata uccisa, torturata, massacrata, messa al rogo in nome di un qualche dio chiamato Yahweh o Elohim o Allah, o… o denaro.

Tiffany McDaniel: Autopsy and Stella Bliss.

Il racconto è portato avanti da Fielding, che ora, nel 2050, ha ottant’anni e vive in una roulotte in Arizona, tra bottiglie scolate e cactus: non si è mai ripreso dagli eventi che racconta, che l’hanno visto tredicenne testimone e protagonista, nell’estate del 1984 che con l’arrivo del diavolo Sal divenne presto torrida.
E così a Breathed, Ohio, all’inizio dell’estate 1984 si presenta il diavolo che accetta l’invito di Autopsy Bliss, il padre di Fielding.
La famiglia Bliss è completata dalla madre Stella e dal fratello diciottenne Grand, campione locale di baseball, un grande lanciatore.
Bliss vuol dire fortunato, beato.
E sono cinque lettere: la famiglia Bliss che ha quattro membri, ora con l’arrivo di Sal, che viene accolto come un figlio e un fratello, i membri diventano cinque, proprio come le lettere del cognome Bliss.
Sal è davvero il diavolo? Sulla schiena ha le cicatrice delle ali che ha perso nella caduta. Ma McDaniel non chiarisce mai chi sia davvero, e più si va avanti e più si crede che sia il vero angelo della famiglia Bliss.

Tiffany McDaniel: The Burning Bliss.

Con queste premesse non credo sia esagerato dire che Tiffany McDaniel si ritaglia un suo bel posto a cavallo tra il gotico del sud – anche se lei preferisce definirlo Midwest Gothic – e il realismo magico: prende un po’ di qua e un po’ di là per mettere insieme un personalissimo romanzo decisamente originale, fuori dal mainstream. Una storia che deborda, non si può contenere, per nulla minimalista, caso mai il contrario, una storia che prende e porta via, piena di dolcezza, poesia, ironia, sapienza. Ma anche una storia non rassicurante, anzi disturbante, misteriosa, spietata, che man mano che s’avvicina al finale si scurisce, raggiunge vette di nero gotico non prevedibili.
Una sorprendente magnifica opera prima, da non dimenticare, da non trascurare.
E per me, un bellissimo regalo della mia consigliora.

Tiffany McDaniel: And So We Burn.

Ero destinato a ereditare il carattere di mio padre. E di mia madre. Invece alla fine ricevetti in eredità il carattere di quella estate. Quell’estate divenne mio padre. E mia madre.

Retropensieri generati dallo scioglimento d’ogni cosa: ma se dio è davvero infinito amore, ergo infinito perdono, perché non ha mai perdonato Lucifero?
Il male è stato creato da dio non dal diavolo. Men che meno dall’uomo.

Tiffany McDaniel: I Melt With You.

Tiffany McDaniel: The Baseball-Shaped Secrets Of Grand Bliss.

Tiffany McDaniel: Slithering Ribbons Of Mad Aunt Fedelia.

Tiffany McDaniel: The Devil Exists In The Start Of A Man.

Tiffany McDaniel: Young Fielding Melts In The Puddle Of Innocence.

Tiffany McDaniel: Dresden Delmar, In Violet Infinity.

Tiffany McDaniel: Grand’s Shoes And The Star Scarred Night Of 1984.
Profile Image for Debbie.
441 reviews2,783 followers
February 10, 2017
This is just me, this is just me, so hold your horses!

I’m not saying that this isn’t a brilliant work of fiction—it certainly is. I’m just saying it’s not for me. First, we have a devil dude as the hero. I can maybe handle a devil if I open myself up to magical realism, which is tough, but I can do it if I try really hard. But I have a cow if a book is full of the word “god,” and here it’s all over the place. I mean it seems like the name came up a million times. I know the book is not trying to convince us of the goodness of some higher being, since so many terrible things happen. And I know that one of the things it’s trying to show is the super scariness of mobs that go on witch hunts. I just really don’t like a book whose characters are god-fearing folk. Which also leads me to say that I don’t like folksy either, and there’s a lot of that in Breathed, Ohio.

Here’s a sample:

“I feel bad for ‘em, I really do, but some say it’s God punishin’ ‘em for their lifestyle. Maybe He is, punishin’ ‘em. . . . It makes ya think maybe God is tellin’ ‘em to stop coming’ together. Maybe He’s tellin’ ‘em to stay apart.” She patted the sides of her neck. “Lordy, this heat has a fury, don’t it?”

So while I stand here at my Complaint Board, I might as well finish it up right now. We all know I want to. Okay, besides the devil and god driving me nuts, oh, and let’s not forget the god(!)-awful folksiness, the Southern dialect got on my nerves. Along with the dialect comes the bad grammar, like “how did you like them apples”? Of course it hurt my editor ears, but I can get into the swing of things if it seems realistic. Here, the problem isn’t just the bad grammar but the fact that the narrator only uses it sometimes. Most of the time, he sounds like this erudite storyteller. Does he have bad grammar or doesn’t he?

This all brought me to a big a-ha moment: I don't like Southern fiction! Or Midwest fiction or whatever it is. (The story actually takes place in Ohio even though it feels like the South.) And I didn't even know I didn’t like Southern or Midwest fiction until the dialogue and folksiness and God stuff all started bombarding me at once. I winced in pain.

The other big thing that turned me off was that this book is chock full of parables. Again, sort of an a-ha moment for me—I really hate parables. It felt like the author wanted to sit me down and teach me a thing or two about life. I’m always up for learning, but please don’t shove life lessons down my throat. Sometimes there was wisdom being thrown my way, and I accepted it happily, but usually I was very conscious that I was there to learn an important lesson. I just resent the hell out of that learning format.

Although the language was very rich, it was a little too rich for me. I’d find myself having to stop and contemplate too often. This isn’t a bad thing, but it made it a hard and slow read. I thought sections could be great stand-alone pieces, long prose poems maybe. But since I had signed up for a novel, I wasn’t loving the interruptions to the plot. I wasn’t dying to pick up the book, because I knew I’d have to think too hard. Call me lazybones, but it really did make my head hurt.

One more small complaint and then I’ll walk away from the Complaint Board, I promise. There are these Russian words written in the Russian alphabet scattered throughout, but super infrequently. So infrequently, that at one point I decided they were typos—someone during Kindle production must have occasionally hit the wrong alphabet set. Right when I was reminding myself to send a note to the Kindle people when I finished the book, one of the characters asks another character what was up with the Russian words. What??? What are Russian words doing in the middle of a Southern or Midwestern novel? This is just all wrong. I suspect the writer did this to add some weirdness to it, and weird it was, but it’s pretty bad when you think the book has font problems and it doesn’t.

Okay, now I am staring at the Joy Jar. The language, oh the language. To die for. Truly, the writing is phenomenal. There are paragraphs that I could read over and over (not any of the paragraphs that say God God God of course). The author has a very bizarre and cool way of seeing things, and the metaphors just slayed me. The author is so original, so creative, I was in awe. Even the names were fun: The dad was named Autopsy. The brother was named Grand.

Here are some sample goodies:

“He was more field than town. More old soul pasture than adolescent attitude.”

“…there is no hope to be had. Hope is just a beautiful instance in the myth of the second chance.”

“My hands were still shaking, little vibrations as if they were being chewed on by gnats.”

“He stood there, watching me scratch my chin through my beard. I stopped because he began to look worried I may have fleas.”

“Old Fedelia’s way to cool down was by licking her forearms. There she’d be, the shades of her eyes pulled half closed, her tongue amphibiously long and aggressive. ‘Kangaroos, you stupid boy. Kangaroos.’ Her amber eyes lit with rage as she shook her forearms at me when I asked why she licked them.”

“Because of him and the anger she held onto, her features reached home to their bones, causing cave and shadow.”

Besides the language, the plot was juicy, if not sad, dark, and strange. I really do love dark and strange. And there are some hefty issues happening here—racism, gayness, AIDS, mob psychology, good vs. evil, sibling love. The characters were well-drawn and complicated.

The story is told by a strange old man who is looking back to a sweltering summer in 1984. Occasionally, we see him in the present, and we learn why he is who he is. The author really made this narrative style work.

I tried, I really tried. So many of my trusted Goodreads friends just loved this book, I wanted to be part of the crowd. But, hey, look--my Complaint Board is way fuller than my Joy Jar. So 3 stars it is. But as I said at the start, it’s just me. I have trouble with God and devil stuff, parables, and folksy. I’m thinking most readers will scarf it down in glee.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,740 reviews2,266 followers
August 15, 2016
Breathed, Ohio is a small town in southern Ohio, in the Appalachian foothills, bordering West Virginia and Kentucky. Fielding Bliss is 13 years old, his brother Grand will be leaving for college soon enough, his father, Autopsy is an attorney, and his mother is a stay-at-home mom, literally. She used to go places, but it’s been years since she’s left the shelter of their home.

“I once heard someone refer to Breathed as the scar of the paradise we lost. So it was in many ways, a place with a perfect wound just below the surface. It was a resting in the southern low of Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where each porch had an orchard of small talk and rocking chairs, where cigarette tongues flapped over glasses of lemonade.”

The heat wave that accompanies Sal (Sa from Satan, L from Lucifer) is sudden, intense, not invited, or welcomed. Sal is welcomed only by his new friend Fielding, who recalls the invitation his father issued to the Devil to come to Breathed, Ohio. Tempers rise as disasters befall the townspeople, accusations are flung, and fingers pointed in the direction of the Sal.

“The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?”

There’s so much more to this incredibly moving debut novel than meets the eye with these few words that tell you what it’s “about.” Bigotry in all senses, sexual preference, skin color, abuse, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, aging… and living. Just the day to day of living seems both precious and tenuous in Breathed in 1984.

Tiffany McDaniel does such a tremendous job giving life to her characters. You’ll see, maybe even care for these people, you’ll see how their past makes someone capable of hurting another. How their fears can cause such pain for others. Can love conquer fear?

Read this.
Profile Image for Emma.
974 reviews975 followers
February 17, 2017
An incredible novel, genuinely different from anything I've read before.

I've taken a few days to think about this book before writing a review. It's one of those novels that haunt the mind by asking the kind of questions that cut straight to the heart of who you are. Despite the 80s setting, the themes are so relevant, so pertinent that it made for an extremely uncomfortable read. Racism. Homophobia. Mob mentality. Religious extremism. Just when you are busy congratulating yourself that you don't live in a small town in 80s America, you remember the news over the last few weeks and it occurs to you that things haven't changed all that much. People haven't changed all that much. After hitting you hard with the story within the pages, the book follows it up with this lasting taste of human behaviour. All I can think about since reading it is that quote from Gandhi about being the change you want to see in the world. I hope everyone who reads this asks themselves: what would I do?

The language is fundamental to the story; the originality of expression is that of a master wordsmith, not a debut author. It is difficult, layered, and complex; providing a stark contrast to the simplistic language of hate the forms the darker currents within the novel. The single words used to embody an entire doctrine of superiority and negation: Faggot, demon, devil, black, nigger. At the same time, there are so many quotes that seem to say so much about the world, but that are also specific to the singular time and space of the novel. I put the book down many times to think about what was said, to roll it around in my mind and even say it out loud. The dichotomy between language and theme was both jarring and beautiful.

So did the Devil really accept the invitation to go to Beathed? It hardly matters, it is our free will that makes us who we are. In any case, if we all chose to act like the community of this small town, the Devil would soon be out of a job. It just goes to show that when it comes to horrible acts of violence, us humans don't need any help.

My heartfelt thanks to Tiffany McDaniel, St. Martin's Press, and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for alittlelifeofmel.
884 reviews343 followers
December 11, 2017
Reread 2017 - 5 stars.

Tiffany McDaniel has done something truly unique with this novel. As a debut novel (though I know from conversations I've had with her that this is not the first book that she's written, just the first published) she is able to do something that has not happened to me very often in my reading life. She has made this feel like I'm not reading. This has never felt like a book for me, this has felt like something I've lived. Like something someone I love has lived. This has felt real, and has felt pure and raw and everything that one wants a book to make you feel. This lived up in a reread, and this hurt just as much the second time, if not more, since I knew everything that was coming. There are so many beautiful poetic lines, philosophical questions, beautiful thoughts that made me want to stop reading and just think about them. I will cherish this book for the rest of my life and I cannot wait to visit it again in the future.


I also did a video review on my booktube channel! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4wwi...

I forgot to mention that the author contacted me to review this book and I did so honestly!

GUYS. This book was amazing.

It's kind of funny because when I read the blurb for this book, all I read was that the Devil comes to this Southern USA town and I knew I wanted to read it. I don't read blurbs often so I didn't read the rest, but just that one or two sentences was enough for me.
But the book is about so much more than that. It's about a loss of innocence. It's about families and communities and friendship and sibling relationships and romantic relationships. It covers race issues and LGBT issues and even different than usual psychological issues. And the book does them all WELL. It does not overload you with content, it has a really nice balance.

The characters in this book are absolutely so well written. Many times throughout the novel I found it impossible to believe that she was a debut author because this was so well written. Sal, Fielding, Grand, his parents, Elohim, all of them were just so fleshed out. They were complex and complicated, filled with so many feelings and backstories and conflict, and yet they were simple. Prone to human desires and human feelings that everyone feels. Throughout the novel it was hard to see who the villain was. There were obvious villains, but there were moments where I questioned who was bad and who was good. But then I realized that that was the brilliance of the way the author wrote these characters, they were human, they were flawed and could be both bad and good.

I loved the setting of the story. I loved this small southern town where it was incredibly hot all summer. There were times when just the descriptions of the heat made me feel like I was experiencing it with them. I could picture this town and all its inhabitants perfectly because it was a simple, yet elaborate, setting.

Overall, there's just not enough praise I could give this book. I may have had problems with the book, if I did I honestly don't remember them as by the end I completely had forgotten them. If I had issues, they clearly weren't important. This book broke my heart. It made me feel angry, upset, and even, although rarely, happy. I feel like I lived through this book with the characters and that's not a small thing for me to say. As a debut novel this is amazing, as a novel in general this is still amazing. Tiffany McDaniel definitely has a reader in me for life because I just loved everything about this book so much.

Around The Year in 52 Books Challenge #18 - A book on a summer/beach reading list
Profile Image for Liz.
2,020 reviews2,521 followers
April 18, 2017
What a weird, strange, engrossing book this is. It defies description. Beautifully written and with ideas that will have you thinking for days. Like the idea that hell is a place without Hope or that the devil prays for forgiveness. But the story itself grabs you. Is this young boy truly the devil?

I love that the author chooses 1984 as the year the novel takes place. The book constantly harkens back to Orwell’s novel with its groupthink and ideas of “truth”. But it's also a book that fits with the current times and the hate currently enveloping the country.

It's not a story that ends well. If anything, the book shows that hell is often right here on earth. But despite the sadness this book evokes, I heartily recommend it.

Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,734 reviews14.1k followers
July 29, 2016
The first thing I noticed when I started reading this novel was the tone, the writing. Southern gothic in Southern Ohio? Okay, I can go with that. Know little about Southern, Ohio so maybe it has more Southern in it than I thought. Takes place over the course of a single summer, a summer with an unprecedented heat wave, a summer that will change forever a family and the people in this town. The summer a devil appeared in answer to an invitation tendered by Autopsy Bliss. A devil that appears to be a young black boy.

Narrated by a now elderly Fielding Bliss, same age as said devil, son of Autopsy who wrote the ad, a man who has not enjoyed life, but when you read this book one can certainly understand why. This book is dark, darker than dark and anytime a little light, a little beauty shines through you can be sure there is more darkness to follow. Yet, it is this very darkness that makes an impression, makes the book memorable. A town who believes that everything bad that happens is the fault of this young black boy, the devil. A town whose people will act against common sense and their very own nature to become something horrible. A young man struggling with his own sexual identity will come smack against the AIDS epidemic. A young Fielding forced to watch as his family and his life falls apart. I can't say I enjoyed this book, but it made a deep impression. Gorgeous writing. Lines that make you think. One in particular I can't seem to let go of.

Paraphrasing, Fear, is the first shadow of ignorance." Covers so much of what happens in this novel and I find it applicable in the present, sadly in my own country.

ARC from Netga'ley.

Profile Image for Ɗẳɳ  2.☊.
159 reviews292 followers
July 7, 2022
“You can tell a lot about a man by what he does with a snake.”

Autopsy Bliss, a prosecutor in the small town of Breathed, Ohio, believes that a courtroom, when ran correctly, should function like God’s filter: trapping the devils of the world. And, as the court’s attorney, it’s his responsibility to sift through the filter. But he suffers a major crisis of faith when learning he’d sent an innocent man to his death. So he pens a letter to the devil inviting him to town. Because he’d really like to meet the man himself—size him up to determine if he’d ever seen him before in his courtroom. Ever seen him in the eyes of all the men and women he’s put away. If so, then maybe he’s done some good in the long run. But how many good deeds does it take to balance the scales with his unforgivable mistake?

Autopsy and the rest of the town are taken aback when the devil actually accepts his invitation; bringing with him a heatwave the likes of which the town has never experienced before. However, the devil in the guise of a thirteen-year-old black boy is not exactly what anyone was expecting.

The story is told by Autopsy’s son, Fielding, who’s now an old man looking back on the summer of 1984, which changed the course of his entire life. In Fielding, the reader sees a man haunted by his past—a man who’s become this wretched human being, this ruined and broken individual, so much wasted potential. As he’s telling his story, one can’t help but sense the looming disaster that hangs over his head like the Sword of Damocles. While the reader may not yet know what lies in store for Fielding, one can only assume that it will be some tragic, soul-crushing event to hollow out this boy into the bitter husk of a man we see before us. There’s an omnipresent sense of foreboding throughout. The pain and sorrow are palpable.

At first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the crux of the problem I was having with the story. The writing had a beautiful, even lyrical quality to it. And, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to one of my favorite books: To Kill a Mockingbird with the small town setting, and a morality tale focused on a group of kids and their attorney father. It seemed as though the author had some profound things to say about sin, prejudice, racism, homophobia, hero worship, mob mentality, and shirking the blame for all your troubles onto some devil, rather than taking responsibly for your own life. Then finally it hit me—that festering tickle in the back of my mind turned transparent—the reason as to why I wasn’t falling head over heels for this charming little tale: the entire story is just an endless parade of metaphors. Eventually, all those metaphors began to feel like a knife, and the slow slicing became a form of torture—a literary lingchi if you will, or death by a thousand cuts.

Another problem was that the story revolved around a couple of kids who didn’t talk or act like kids at all. They were wise beyond their years, with deep insight into all the goings-on of the town, and forever speaking in metaphors. Sal, in particular, had a seemingly endless number of parables to relate to any situation. Amazing indeed for a thirteen-year-old boy from a broken family, with little to no education. Or was he the devil? You tell me. That’s one of the lingering questions throughout.

Look, the novel was clearly written to impress the literary crowd, but maybe it was a little too clever for its own good. Exquisite writing like that can be breathtaking when taken in small doses, but when stretched to novel lengths it can become a real chore to wade through.

Who knows, maybe you’ll love the symbolism and all those metaphors and parables. I wish you luck. But I’m a simple man with simple cravings. I’m content with my burger and fries. This Duck à l'Orange with foie gras ravioli is all yours.

For anyone curious to sample the author’s writing style and a few of those countless metaphors, check the spoiler tag.

Profile Image for Debra .
2,284 reviews35k followers
July 6, 2021
4.5 stars

The Summer that Melted Everything could also be titled The Summer that Everyone lost their damn fool minds.

I love books that cause me to think and feel. This did both. After reading this book, I sat and thought about it for quite some time.

“You can imagine anything you want in the dark. You can imagine your father loves you, you can imagine your mother is not disappointed, you can imagine that you are...significant. That you mean somethin' to someone. That's all I ever wanted, Fielding. To matter. That is all I've ever wanted.”

So I am doing thinking. What I do think is that hatred is such an ugly thing. Ignorance is such an ugly thing. Regret will wear you down and that one summer can forever change a life.

This was a very beautifully written book. Very lyrical at times. There are so many passages in this book that I highlighted on my kindle that if I included them all there would be no room for my review. At times the atmosphere felt like it was dripping along with the sweat from people's bodies.

I have heard many times while obtaining my degrees in Clinical Psychology that that Murder/Homicides go up with ice cream sales. We are taught that it is a coincidence. But heat does something doesn't it. Don't we all get a little irritable when overheated? Can the heat really make people crazy?

During a Hot (as in the hottest ever) summer in Breathed, Ohio, Autopsy Bliss places an ad in the local newspaper:

“Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,
I cordially invite you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith,
Autopsy Bliss”

Did he ever expect anyone to show up? What were his motivations? What in the world?

But then a dirty, bruised, 13 year old boy arrives, claiming to be the devil who has come to answer the invitation. Fielding Bliss, Autopsy's youngest son, brings him home and introduces him to his family. Surely he must be a runaway. Clearly he cannot be the devil...can he? Word spreads, as it often does in small towns, that the devil has in fact arrived in Breathed, Ohio and along with him strange occurrences.

“I'm the devil. No one tells me when to stay and when to leave. But it sure is nice to be wanted. I tell you, Fielding, it sure is nice to be wanted in this very place.”

Wanted by some (the Fielding family) hated by others (who shall remain un-named here). I really liked the Fielding family. The Mother, so afraid of rain, Autopsy trying to do right, Grand who loved his brother and always looked out for him.......then there was Sal, claiming to be the devil who spoke so eloquently that it was hard to believe he was 13 years old.

Tragic events unfold. Some very horrific and tragic events unfold. There are secrets in this town. So many secrets and some Fielding begins to learn. The book has so many themes: agoraphobia, brotherly love, abuse, acceptance, hate, homophobia, racism.

The story is told by Fielding in 1984 and we see him as an adult in the future. How did he get to be the adult he was? As you read, you see how one summer can change lives. How regret and hindsight have plagued him. Most is about his brother. What if he had stopped him? What if he had reached out as he brother passed the doorway? So many what ifs. The way we punish ourselves for being human.

“Pain is our most intimate encounter. It lives on the very inside of us, touching everything that makes us. It claims your bones, it masters your muscles, it reels in your strength, and you never see it again. The artistry of pain is its content. The horror of it is the same.”

Such an emotionally moving book. Highly recommend. Some horrible things happen so be warned and grab a kleenex.

See more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews397 followers
July 26, 2016
Holy moly, this is McDaniel's debut novel? It is my favorite read so far this year, and spoke to me like few books do.

It's the 80's and McDaniel starts by reminding us of the hysteria over child abuse at the time. I remember the McMartain trial, the social workers giving children toy dolls, asking leading questions, dooming innocent caretakers as pedophiles. It was also the decade we learned of AIDS, how many believed God was exacting judgement for those who defiled Him. These memories set the stage for her own novel by showing us how hysteria and religious fervor are often all too human, but always lead us down a path of destruction.

We are introduced to the Bliss family, and their two sons Feilding and Grand. The younger son Feilding, now 84 years old, narrates the story as he looks back to his 13th year, and a summer that changed everything. His father was the town prosecutor. Always an even-handed man, he begins to wonder, is he really sifting out the "devils," or merely playing god. His desire to know leads him to place an add in the paper, inviting the devil to town. When the devil shows up as a 13 year old boy, and the town is facing its hottest summer on record, tempers begin to flare.

I loved how McDaniel took on all the questions that lie at the heart of who we are, and what we believe in. Questions such as where does our sense of morality, good and evil, right, and wrong, come from. This isn't a book questioning the existence of God or the devil, but rather how humans have interpreted both. She carefully weaves throughout many emotions and topics, such as pain and suffering, loss and death, family bonds and homosexuality.

What lies at the heart of this novel is mob mentality, how families are shattered through their ignorance, and how one man can affect others to blindly follow him through fear. As McDaniels states,

"It is the inability to choose by our own will that lessens us all. It is disease to our sanity, which
sickens our good sense until we are the victims of choices we would not normally have been in
the company of."

I was so reminded of our current political situation, and loved this statement as well,

"Fear is ignorance's first shadow"

McDaniel's writing is full of metaphor, and so beautifully written. Even the characters names were brilliant, ones I will never forget. Sometimes it takes a so-called devil to help us see more clearly. I think the novel seeks to show us that love is the only answer that matters in the end.

Thanks to NetGally for the early copy in exchange for a review.

Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews670 followers
June 30, 2016
Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

Posted in the newspaper, a formal invitation is extended to the devil requesting his presence in Breathed, Ohio. A heat wave ensues, the likes of which has not been seen before in this small town. Tempers flare, bad feelings smolder, hot words bubble from the lips of those who are typically slow to anger. A sort of madness descends, and all common sense melts away.

And now, here is a young boy in tattered overalls with a pure love of ice cream and an old soul. Fireflies, the color yellow, a family dented by grief. Everyone wants to be significant in some way, to matter. Who's to say what is good, what is evil? One last poser - is there a chance in the world the devil has a heart?

This is an unusual novel, refreshing in its originality, both in the writing as well as the plot. I suspect we can look forward to good things from this author if this debut is any indication.
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
616 reviews499 followers
August 11, 2020
Here is the truth: this book is perfect.
When you look at every single element of this story, every single character, phrase and all of the parts of the plot, you get one perfect whole, compliteness that leaves you breathtaken in an absolutely literal way.

I am sorry if I already used the word perfection too many times at the very beginning of my review, but the truth is, I am lost for other words. This book, to me, was pure perfection.

It played with my emphaty in a way I can't describe, it broke my heart, torn me apart and I am still picking myself up, days after I finished it.
I am lost for words and I already know that my review won't do a justice to this masterpiece, but I will try my best.

The Summer That Melted Everything talks about summer in a year 1984, the year when the HIV virus was discovered and scientists gave it a name.
It takes place in Breathed, a small town in the West America, where people are still afraid of unknown and are very judgamental.

Even though this book contains more then few diverse elements (like gay people, black people and people with dwarfism), the way characters talk about people and things that are diverse or different is plain brutal.
For example, people say that AIDS is God's punishment for gays, God's tool to get rid of them.
Those kind of references you'd hear even from characters you'd like.
Keep in mind that it is 1984 and even though that kind of phrases were hard to read about, they also represent the reality of the story.

The novel is written in first person, following two different times: first being placed in 1984 when Fielding was a 13 years old boy and the second that takes place when Fielding is and old angry man, and we can see how much tool summer 1984 took on him, how happenings from that summer shaped him as a person and destroyed him in a way.

The writting style is astonshing. McDaniel's voice is so beautiful. It is different from other voices I read and it probably has a lot to do with the fact that The Summer That Melted Everything is a piece of literary fiction.

This book reminded me how much I enjoy reading literary fiction, even though I don't read it too often.

My opinion is that this book demands to be read more then once. I know I will reread it for sure in my close future.

This is not a happy book, it will probably leave you under an impression and you won't be able to stop thinking about it.

I already knew this was a five stars read for me after I finished it, but I also learned to appreciate it even more after some time passed.

I would give it all the stars in the world.

This is the best book I have read this year and it is one of the best books I read in my lifetime.

Tiffany McDaniel surprised me with her debut novel and after reading only one book written by her, I already know I want to read everythig she'll write in the future.

Recommending books is something I often do in my reviews, but if there's one book I would recommend of all the books I liked, it would be this one.

I really, wholeheartedly recommend you to read this book!

Note: I got this book for free via Netgalley in an exchange for an honest review. Thank you Tiffany McDaniel and St. Martin's Press.

Read this and more reviews on my blog: https://bookdustmagic.com
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,483 reviews12.8k followers
November 29, 2016
FUCKING HORRIBLE. That’s the only way to describe Tiffany McDaniel’s The Summer That Melted Everything!

My head aches just thinking about this garbage… it’s about a Southern kid in the 1980s who meets another kid called Sal who claims to be the Devil (the first two letters from Satan and the first letter of Lucifer = SAL. Faceplant). Southern summers are mighty hot. To make this seem like an intelligent novel, here are some quotes from Paradise Lost ‘cos Sal is a sort of sad and tragic Devil like John Milton’s Satan. That’s it.

That the book has a premise rather than a story bothered me but not nearly as much as McDaniel’s ultra-shitty writing style which tried my patience to the point where I had to abandon the novel for my own sanity at Chapter 16 rather than endure another monotonous 11 chapters. Not a fucking thing can just happen in this book – nobody can simply walk into a room, everything has to be accompanied with a ton of preamble and pretence as well.

The structure is basically this: begin with folksy wittering about nothing relevant, mention the setting or weather and make a contrived metaphor. Then have a character say something pointless, do a simple thing - the point of all this nonsense - make another strained metaphor or maybe a time-wasting simile, then end with a useless anecdote about nothing usually involving more folksy blather, another shite metaphor, and more extraneous dialogue. Repeat IN EVERY SINGLE PARAGRAPH ON EVERY SINGLE FUCKING PAGE UNTIL YOU WANT TO BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT.

It’s like reading latter-day Stephen King minus the sometimes compelling characters and stories and just enduring his irritating homespun, conversational nattering which has become such a big insufferable feature of his work now that I’ve had to give up his books. McDaniel’s style is endless waffle waffle waffle, drivel drivel drivel punctuated by a cast of stereotypical hillbillies gosh darnin’ their way through one tedious sentence after another. I lost count of the number of times I muttered to myself GET. THE FUCK. ON WITH IT.

Would you like an aneurysm? Read this book. The Worst Novel of 2016.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,122 reviews30.2k followers
July 18, 2020
I love this author. Her writing speaks for itself, and I cannot wait to pick up her newest, Betty, today.

EPIC! This book was absolutely epic. I crawled inside this story, and I did not want it to end. I lived with the Bliss family during that hot summer of 1984, and I was attached to each character who was beautifully drawn, yet deeply flawed -- and all so real and genuine. The issues of 1984 are still relevant today. The writing has incredible flow and pacing, and the descriptions, wow. I found myself reading and re-reading passages just to think about them further; to really get that visual effect. The entire book reads like a true classic - descriptive, timeless, epic, character-driven. Yes, there are dark parts to this story, but those dark places have a meaningful purpose. This book connected to my heart, and I will be thinking about it and these characters for a long time. I won a copy of this book, and this was my unsolicited, honest review. (I have since bought several copies for my shelf).
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,336 followers
July 17, 2016
3.75 stars. I'm struggling with my reaction to The Summer That Melted Everything. Set in a small town in Ohio in the 1980s, the story is narrated by Fielding Bliss who was 13 during the summer when the story takes place. It was a ridiculously hot summer, and Fielding and his family welcomed a homeless black teenaged boy who presented himself as the "devil" -- aka Sal -- in response to an ad Fielding's father placed in the local paper. Following Sal's arrival, the town and Fielding's family are plagued by a series of nasty events which lead to a growing mob mentality in the town. I won't say more about the story to avoid spoilers. I loved a lot of things about this book: the 1980s time period, the strong sense of time and place, the intensity of how the book deals with a small town's reaction to difference, Fielding's own internal struggles to figure out where he and his family fit in, and Fielding's intense complicated love for his brother and Sal. And the writing at times blew me away -- there are some truly brilliant passages. But at times I really struggled with how this story was told. The narration hovers just above reality, presenting the story more as a myth or parable. I appreciate the skill involved, but I think my brain may be a bit too concrete to be fully engaged or caught up in how this story is told --- at times I found myself struggling with the devil trope and feeling that the story's elusiveness was overdone. Having said that, at other times it really worked for me and I had real moments of awe. This book definitely deserves to be read -- the end especially is brilliant -- but I suspect that the writer's stylized story telling will not resonate with all readers. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to an advance copy.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,186 reviews1,097 followers
August 17, 2016
2.5 Stars

I Guess I couldn’t take the heat…………………….

The Summer that melted everything is a unique and interesting story set in Breathed, Ohio. A deep and dark story of the summer the Devil comes to town in the form of a teenager called Sal and a series of horrific events occur and the reader must decide whether these events are actually the work of the devil or humans. Of course the town are quick to point the finger at Sal but could a fifteen year old teenager really be the devil in disguise?

It’s a beautifully written book and the story is unique in its telling and I normally love Southern Fiction but this one just didn’t sit well with me as from the outset I really didn’t engage with any of the characters and I found the story too deep and dark and to be honest there is a little magic realism running through the novel which doesn’t work for me at the best of times. Perhaps I need to be from the South or know more about it in order to enjoy this novel.

This book reminded me very much of The Enchanted The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld in its tone and uniqueness.

This book wasn't for me and I am know that I am in the minority on my views on this one as most of my Good reads friends have loved it so I think its best to decide for yourself as the writing is excellent and the story unique.

An ok read but not one for my favourite list.

Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,051 reviews577 followers
December 7, 2016
Make no mistake, this is a book that’ll suck you in, chew you up and spit out the gristly bits. It’s slow to get going but from the mid-point onward it’s intense, very intense. And the last section of the book might just leave you an emotional wreck. So choose a good day, a happy time, to pick this one up.

Set in a small town in Ohio in 1984, we are introduced to the fact that it’s the beginning of the hottest, driest Summer anyone can remember. We meet a family, the parents and their two sons: Fielding, aged 13, and his elder brother, Grand. The father’s name is Autopsy Bliss (yes, there’s a lot of strange names here), a lawyer and a religious man. For reasons I haven’t quite grasped, Autopsy decides to write an open letter inviting the devil to visit this town. And the devil duly arrives, at least he says he is the devil, in the shape of a thirteen-year-old black boy.

The town is populated by rather strange folk and the atmosphere feels like that of a place lost somewhere in the 19th Century, so far removed is it from the 1980’s England I grew up in. In fact, the town is so estranged from any other conurbation that after the stock of ice cream is destroyed at the local store it takes the whole of the Summer for it to be replenished.

We follow the story of the family and of ‘the devil’ (given the moniker Sam soon after his arrival) through the ramblings of a 71-year-old Fielding looking back on that insufferable season. We know it’s not going to end well, Fielding’s stumbling thoughts and uncoordinated actions make that clear. His memories are not good ones.

In all honesty the prose is not entirely to my taste. There are some brilliant lines and some genuine wisdoms that made me pause and think, but there are also long, overblown sections that prompted to to drift off and to lose, temporarily, the thread of the narrative. It didn’t seem to flow in the way the best novels do, but at the same time I retained enough interest to keep me turning the pages. In particular, there were glimpses of Sal’s background that began to piece together the life he’d had before he arrived in the town. I wanted to follow this through, to see where it took me.

I’m not sure I was ever totally taken in by events but I can say that towards the end I was totally captivated by the power of the piece. I found it hard to read but impossible to put down. Most reviews I’ve subsequently read are from readers who absolutely loved this book and I’m sure it will capture a good deal of attention. Despite some personal reservations, I do feel that this is an extraordinary potent piece of literature from the hands of a young writer.

My thanks to St Martins Press and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Carol.
829 reviews481 followers
September 13, 2016
The Hook - The tug of war that comprise the force of good vs. evil. The outcome of what happens when the devil comes to call.

The Line - ”Sometimes I think not having tears meant we cried even more.”

The Sinker - A beautifully written debut novel with a creative take on a story that’s been told many ways before.

The Summer That Melted Everything has received lots of praise. I was not certain I wanted to read it but there it was sitting on the library shelf and before I knew it, it was in my book bag. Many people have written eloquent reviews of The Summer That Melted Everything. I’m not going to try to outdo them.

The Summer That Melted Everything is a read that will mean different things to different people, one from which we each will choose what we take Fielding and Sal will forever be in my heart.

Birth/Death, Understanding/Intolerance, Good/Evil, Young/Old, Black/White, Right/Wrong, Guilt/Innocence, Rain/Drought, Fire/Ice, Heaven/Hell, opposites that attract and meld in their morality. The author, Tiffany McDaniel was on to something. She made me think as I was given a glimpse of that long, hot summer of 1984. I’m glad I read The Summer That Melted Everything and look forward to see what else McDaniel might have in store for me.
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