This book was reviewed via Netgalley
The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel is a philosophical gem reminiscent of Stephen King. This is the story of the summer of 1984, a summer of shattered illusions and innocence lost. It is the story of two young boys brought together through the most unlikely of circumstances.
Autopsy Bliss has invited the devil to town. He’s answered by the arrival of a disheveled boy calling himself Sal, a mix of Satan and Lucifer. Autopsy and his family take Sal in, as a foster, hoping to find his family.
They’re sceptical at first, of his claims to be the devil. Who wouldn’t be? But there are those in Breathed who do believe. As the heat intensifies, tempers fray, and common sense melts away in the swelter. Sal is blamed for every misfortune, real and imagined, that afflict the citizens of Breathed, even those that happened years before he was born. Yet for all the bad he is falsely accused of, Sal brings good with him for many. This articulate boy, far more perceptive than many adults, helps one person release bitterness and anger that had consumed them for years, and he helped another set free their fear. For better or worse, Sal changed all of those he came in contact with.
This story is a nice commentary on how we shape our own hells that burn us from within. It is told from Fielding’s point of view, as an old man eaten up from the inside out for all the regrets and losses of that one fateful summer. It slips smoothly, elegantly, between Fielding the child and Fielding the adult.
I feel so bad for Sal. His story is revealed, like Fielding the adult’s, in slow pieces, morsels to be savoured in their bitter sweetness. He seems such a thoughtful boy. I’ve also always had a soft spot for Lucifer. I can respect not wanting to bow and scrape to those I find inferior to me. Yep, pride is one of my flaws too, yet not a flaw seen in Sal. If anything, Sal is quite the humble one.
There’s so much going in this story, so much to absorb philosophically. It definitely needs a second read-through to truly appreciate the complexities. It is a story that speaks to our society today, especially with the hate-mongering farce that has been our recent presidential campaigning. Fear and hate towards race, towards gender orientation, and the consequences of succumbing to that fear and hate.
I found it quite ironic, though I realise it was intentional, that Elohim, whose name means ‘God’ is the one playing the devil’s role while our self-purported devil plays the sacrificial angel. I loved the metaphors and similes. No clichés here! They were beautifully original.
Though rife with tragedy, this story kinda made me nostalgic for the 80s, the decade of my childhood as well. Do you know…. I believe I remember this summer, so hot.. I remember a visit to my great-grandmother’s in Alabama, where the adults spoke of the ozone layer burning away, and saying we’d all burn up in the heat. I do believe this incident is the cause of my occasional dreams, even to this day, of the sun engulfing me. I just realised this connection, reading this story. Good books can do that, you know? Make you think, foster connections. Help you learn and grow.
????? Highly recommended for those who enjoy a good philosophical read, one to make you truly think, and for those who enjoy Stephen King’s more psychological offerings like The Green Mile. Well delving in to.