Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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 temperatures 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 wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
What I Liked
Honestly, this book took me completely by surprise. Beginning with a Ivan Doig-esque boyish charm, I expected a mildly strange coming of age tale, and suspected the devil aspect of the story would lead to some overly heavy-handed slap of moral judgment. What I found as the story went on, however, was a deeply moving story about the complexity of the world we live in. The Summer That Melted Everything explores with magnificent subtlety the good and evil within humanity, and maintains haunting mysteries that rocked me to the core. It’s emotive, it’s wise, and its writing displays McDaniel uncommon talent and depth. If I’m being straight with all of you, usually the books I receive directly from authors are absolute piss, no offense. It is so rare for me to see this kind of elegance of craft and profound commitment to the style and purpose of literary fiction in a debut author. It’s unfortunate to me that such a talented author received a publishing deal that requires her to market her book herself, but I’m so happy she was able to get it published so the rest of us can bask in its glory.
What I Didn’t Like
I only had one small beef with the way this book was written, and that is that the descriptions sometimes felt a bit desperate. Everything had a heavy and obviously carefully chosen adjective attached to it. While I appreciate the care McDaniel put into her word choice, having so many unusual words shoved in my face made it feel as if she was trying just a little too hard to thrust her message. It is my belief that a book this well written has no need of those kind of parlor tricks. McDaniel, you do such an amazing job of soaking your writing in the tone and message of your story that I think you can feel safe in trusting your readers to get it–in other words, dialing back the heavy descriptive words would not hurt your story, and in fact might enhance the subtle power of your novels.
I know that this book is not something everyone will appreciate. If you prefer fast paced books that are heavy on plot action, this one might bore you. But if you’re like me and love books that are character driven and spend time dissecting the inner working of human relationships, do yourself a favor and read this book!
P.S. To facilitate y’all getting a chance to try this, I’ll be hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of the book! Stay tuned here and on Twitter and Facebook for info on how to enter.