The Summer That Melted Everything

December 1, 2017
The Summer That Melted Everything Book Cover The Summer That Melted Everything
Tiffany McDaniel
Literary Fiction
St. Martin's Griffin
July 4th, 2017
Paperback
320
From Author
July 26th, 2016

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperature as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

(via Goodreads)

 

I count myself lucky that over the last year, as I’ve seriously delved into blogging, I’ve developed some meaningful relationships with other bloggers. One of those relationships, with Amanda @ Cover 2 Cover Mom, helped connect me with Tiffany McDaniel. When Amanda read The Summer That Melted Everything, she was blown away (check out her amazing review here!) and developed a relationship with McDaniel. When McDaniel reached out to Amanda asking what bloggers she should be reaching out to, Amanda recommended me. I  couldn’t be more honored to have the opportunity to review Tiffany McDaniel’s The Summer That Melted Everything as a result!

I want to begin by echoing Amanda’s opening line: I am so happy this book was written.

“In this world where few things are given, how can you not be in awe of what you’ve got?”

I can’t describe much of the plot beyond what the synopsis states without giving things away. The Summer That Melted Everything is narrated by both a thirteen-year-old Fielding Bliss experiencing the summer of 1984 and a seventy-something-year-old Fielding Bless unreliably reflecting on how his past has changed him. Fielding’s story unfolds slowly. The tension he builds through the narrative voice is palpable and terrifying as the reader soon comes to fear for the entire town of Breathed.

Our characters are coping with a powerful collection of issues and themes. Racism, bigotry, aging, domestic abuse, redemption, hate, fear, kidnapping, mob mentality,  homophobia, AIDS, alcoholism, adultery, religious fanaticism, and mental health were constantly treading through their lives. Yet each member of the Bliss family, including Sal, is a fully realized character. They are all deep and flawed. They are all trying to make the best of a bad situation; broken and working to heal.

“But you’ve gonna be a Major Leaguer some day.”
“Am I?”
“Sure. Everyone says it.”
“Funny, no one ever asked me.”
“Don’t you wanna be a great baseball player?”
He sighed back into the wall, “I want to be a great man, Fielding.”

The language McDaniel uses is magnificent. I found myself constantly updating my Goodreads status with beautiful and powerful quotes. She has a mesmerizing way of describing the world. The best way to describe her writing is atmospheric. I don’t think this story would have been nearly as effective without McDaniel’s beautiful descriptive turns of phrase. I was surprised to learn that this is McDaniel’s debut novel. She is certainly a master wordsmith in a way most authors could never possibly be.

I really appreciate all the literary parallels I found while reading The Summer That Melted Everything. The most obvious is to Milton’s Paradise Lost quoted at the beginning of each chapter. But I also found direct and indirect parallels to 1984To Kill a MockingbirdThe Scarlet LetterThe Crucible, and more. Each time I found a potential connection, I will admit, I smiled a bit at myself. Like a tiny easter egg hiding just for me. It’s obvious that McDaniel is well-read, but also inventive. While these parallels exist, they are not driving the story. This is no copy-cat tale. Instead, it is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stifling genre. (Sorry literary fiction!)

No one ever said you’ve got to prepare to be hated. You’ve got to prepare for the yelling and the anger. You’ve got to prepare how to survive being the guilty one, even in innocence. 

I am a crier. When I read books which really touch me, I cry. I cry when characters die, when they fall in love– happy, sad, it doesn’t matter. When I picked up The Summer That Melted Everything, I knew I was in for something exciting and different. What I didn’t know was that it would punch me so hard I would be unable to cry. The tumult of emotions I experienced was so immense and powerful I found myself reeling instead of crying.

This feeling, in conjunction with the atmospheric writing, is my only criticism of this book. There is so much to take in. I know I didn’t absorb everything the first time. I was overwhelmed. In some places, I even found myself skimming the text. Why? I needed a breather from how intense things got. I did try putting the book down, but I found I didn’t want to come back to it. The writing style didn’t give me the siren’s song to return. It was too overwhelming and too exhausting sometimes to keep going.

What these poor souls were desperate for was a light. But the thing about light is it all looks the same when you’re in the dark, so you can’t tell if what powers that light is good or if it is bad, because the light blinds you to the source of its power. All you know if that it saves you from the darkness.

There are so many things I want to unpack and explore in this novel, but I know I am not eloquent enough to do them justice. Instead, I’ll end with this: The Summer That Melted Everything is a beautiful, thought-provoking, spiritual novel which forces the reader to examine their lives and learn to forgive. The themes are relentless, though. If you are looking for something new and different to read which will challenge how you view the world, pick this up. Recommend it to your next book club. While this book might not be for everyone, you won’t forget this book for weeks after reading it.

Just as I started with one of Amanda’s lines, I’ll end with one as well: This book was made to be read.

 

I received a copy of this novel from Tiffany McDaniel and St. Martin’s Griffin. Learn more about Tiffany McDaniel and St. Martin’s Griffin on their respective websites. A HUGE thank you to Tiffany McDaniel for reaching out to me specifically. You rock. 


What do you think?

  • Have you read The Summer That Melted Everything? What do you think of this book?
  • What is your thought on this book cover?
  • What was the last book you read which overwhelmed you so much you couldn’t react?
  • Do any of these quotes resonate with you? If so, which ones? And why?

11 Comments

  • Grab the Lapels December 2, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    I’m not sure what makes me think this, but the title sounds like that of a YA novel, which is why I didn’t check it out after Amanda reviewed it. However, your review demonstrates that there’s an awful lot of adult stuff happening that couldn’t possibly all happen off the page. It sounds like you were brave and powered through The Summer That Melted Everything.

    • Jackie B December 8, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks, Melanie! I appreciate the kudos for pushing on. There were times I definitely didn’t want to. But, we don’t read books to be comfortable, right? Right.

      This certainly YA novel even though the narrator is (most of the time) thirteen. It covers a lot of dark and challenging topics very directly. The reading level is also much higher than I’d expect from a YA crowd. McDaniel’s writing is magnificent, but even 18-year-old Jackie would have struggled.

  • Helen Murdoch December 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    This sounds like a really good one! Thank you for the review and bringing it to our attention

    • Jackie B December 8, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Thank you, Helen!! I hope you get a chance to read it some day. But make certain you’re in the mood for something darker before you crack that spine.

  • Hungry Bookworm December 2, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this and now your review got me even more excited! I’ll have to track it down soon 🙂

    • Jackie B December 4, 2017 at 11:20 am

      It’s so great. While the drive to keep reading wasn’t always there, I appreciate how much McDaniel got me thinking. It’s been a long time since an author has provided me that joy. I hope you enjoy The Summer That Melted Everything when you get a chance to read it!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom December 3, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Ahhhhh Jackie!!! Beautiful review. I am so glad you gave this book a chance. When Tiffany asked which bloggers I would reccomend for her to reach out to, of course you were #1 on my list. I knew you would appreciate this important book. I definitely agree with you that TSTME is definitely a “heavy book,” and it was not always easy to read or pick up. You definitely need to be in the right mood & mindset before venturing into this one.

    • Jackie B December 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      D’aw. Thank you so much, Amanda!! I am so honored you thought of me first. It’s definitely important. I just wish I knew the right way to introduce this to people!! So many people have asked me what I think and my response has been the dull, “Well. It’s magnificent, but it’s heavy.” That isn’t really selling it to others. O_o Any suggestions?

      I really want to force a book club to read this so I can chat about it in person with someone! Ann Marie reached out to me about chatting some– I think we’ll totally do that. There is a lot to unpack. And until I unpack it, well, it’ll just be sitting on my chest, I think. How did you process everything here?

  • Ann Marie December 3, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Awesome review, Jackie! I agree – there was so much to take in. At times I felt slightly overwhelmed by it. I thought to myself that if I’m emotionally taxed just reading, how drained must be author be after writing it? At the same time, I love books like this.

    • Jackie B December 8, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      That’s a really good point! McDaniel must have really struggled some days to write this. I cannot imagine carrying such a heavy load on a daily basis. Wowza.

      I agree- I love books like this because it forces me to face the ugly realities of the world without leaving my comfortable spaces. That sounds silly, but now I can reasonably process what I read without worrying about my safety. That’s important to me.

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea December 10, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    I am so glad you enjoyed this one! It is very high on my list 😉 So I admittedly skimmed your thoughts and will revisit them soon after I read it 🙂 I was fortunate enough to interview Tiffany (thanks to Amanda <3 ) and discover her book setting is based on the county I grew up in and her grandparents lived down the road from me! It has been fantastic to chat with her. I will be coming back to this for sure, as I look forward to discussing it with you!

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