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.”
“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 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, The 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?