Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Book Review : The Summer That Melted Everything By Tiffany McDaniel

I have received an advance copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.


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 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. 

"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 sinner and forgivers.
May you come in peace.
With great faith,
Autopsy Bliss"


I rarely read synopses when I receive books, I like being surprised and not knowing what's going on. Well sometimes, too much of the unknowing confuses me, like this book. I was a little confused reading the first few pages of this book.  I guess it's because of what I thought it would be, judging by its cover.  I couldn't tell if some of the writings were metaphorical or not, and also the timeline was all over the place.  But it all makes much more sense after taking time diving into the core.

This is a story about a man named Fielding, narrating a story of his childhood, back when he was 13 years old, in a very hot summer of 1984.  In that short period of season, many things have happened. Things that the 13-year-old Fielding wouldn't have guessed.  On that summer he met Sal, claiming to be the 'devil' his father had invited.  That was the start of everything.  The beginning of the end for Fielding.  That summer, Fielding gained and lost love ones, knew new things he have never know before, explore his town and its men, grew out of innocent, learn to hate the things he once loved.
I think of all the devils I've seen in my long life, I know now how brief the innocent, how permanent the wicked.

This story started out dark and religious, and ends with so much emotional rides!  The alternating timeline shifted from the innocent, gullible, and young Fielding, to the dark, angry, complicated and old man.  It also showcases how the innocent isn't innocent anymore, how the bad isn't always bad, how the old regrets his past.

My thoughts on this book : First of all, let me just say: I love the title.  I think it attracts apprehensions and I did feel intrigued the first time I saw the bright and fun cover!  Who doesn’t love a well done typography? This cover reminds me of one of the cover from I’ll Give You My Sun by Jandy Nelson.

I enjoy how this book bring up topics such as dealing with fears, racism, homophobia, domestic abuse, disability, and other social issues which certainly fit what’s contemporary.  It also focuses a lot on religion, although not in an annoying way.  It speaks about life, heaven, hell, the Devil, and God Himself.  It also talks about friendship, family, and love, which is one of the winning point of the book!  This book is so beautifully written, I cried a couple of times specially on the second half of the story.  It was a crazy emotional ride for me.  Call me weak, I don't care, this story is amazing.  I really wish this book to be a best seller, and who knows, be a motion picture, and by then, I'll be crazy not to watch it.

Aside from that, I also love the 1980's vibe. I love how unique every character is, how this story sends such a powerful meaning but in a really subtle way.  I have experienced happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, care and affection throughout the pages. Thumbs up for Tiffany's debut novel!



The characters of your book have amusingly weird names, where did you find the idea for those names?
I always say the characters name themselves and it’s up to me to know and discover the characters’ authentic selves enough that I find the name that already belongs to them.  Sometimes I see a word for that day, or I get the flash of a word in my mind, and these are the characters’ hints, I think.  Saying to me, “Here is my name.  Write it for me, won’t you?”

You begin each chapter with little quotes from Milton's Paradise Lost, can you explain a little about how you chose those quotes and the story behind your keenness towards Paradise Lost?
I first read Milton’s epic masterpiece when I was in college.  It’s one of those works that has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so because it balances that line between good and evil, between the fall of man and our rise.  When I was thinking of my chapter titles, I immediately thought of “Paradise Lost.”  I only hope I’ve done Milton proud by including his beautiful quotes.  They are on their own masterful phrases.  And in my novel they are that which shines the most.   

What inspired you to write this story? What started it all?
The novel started first as a title.  It was one of those Ohio summers that I just felt like I was melting and thus the title was born.  I always start writing a novel with two things: the title and the first line.  These two things really create the path for the rest of the story.  As far as what inspired me to write this story, I always say it’s the characters themselves.  My characters feel very real to me, as if at some point I will actually meet them, if not here in this world, perhaps in the one after.  They exist and in their existence they inspire me to tell their story as honestly as I can. 

As a reader I cried a bunch of times throughout the story, how was your emotional journey writing this book?
Well, I am sorry to hear of your tears, but secretly happy for them as well.  As an author my only hope is to write something that affects the reader because then as an author I feel worthy of the reader’s time.   

As far as my emotional journey goes—when I began writing this novel, I was at a point in my life when I really feared I’d never be published.  I had already gone through years of rejection and heart-ache brought on by the publishing process.  I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen-years-old and didn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine.  The Summer that Melted Everything got me that contract, so my emotions toward the novel and in writing the novel is heavily felt.  It’s the novel that has in essence saved me.  It has been the life boat out of the raging waters.  Where would I be without it?  Perhaps drowned and given to the sea-bed floor.     

Is there going to be a follow up on this story or are you going to just end it here?

I think this story has had its true end.  However, my characters and their lives do not start on the first page and end on the last.  There are so many experiences they’ve had, and will have, that I’ll never write.  What I’ve captured in The Summer that Melted Everything is a moment for all of them.  But just like our own moments, they have others that will continue to evolve their being and their spirit.  And while I’ll end The Summer that Melted Everything here with my writing of them, they will continue forward in ways not yet revealed to us, if they ever will be.  

Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions, Tiffany! I wish the very best!


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