FIVE MOST IMPORTANT POINTS
1. Paradise Lost references in chapter titles and plot
2. Well-rounded characters
3. Amazing setting descriptions
4. Well working plot
5. Grab you tissues
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.
The Summer that Melted Everything is the debut novel of Tiffany McDaniel. She has also made a great trailer where you can see exactly how much other people have loved this novel too!
So don't just take my word during this review: trust other people who love books too! And because Tiffany is amazing, she always answered some questions for you readers. Read those first and then my thoughts about the novel below!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
A. I’m an Ohio poet and novelist who wishes I could ride the back of Moby Dick across the great Atlantic, make a web with Charlotte, and shoot the breeze (but no mockingbirds) with Atticus Finch. I want to spend every summer bottling Dandelion Wine with Ray Bradbury, and spend all my Octobers haunting around and checking sugar for arsenic with Shirley Jackson.
Q. What inspired you to write The Summer that Melted Everything?
A. When I was twenty-eight I felt like I was melting. It was one of those Ohio summers that just about turned me into a puddle of myself. Thus the title was born. As far as what inspired me to write this story, I always say what inspires me always are the characters themselves. My characters feel very real to me, as if at some point I will actually meet them in full presence, 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.
Q. The story is really very sad. As a writer, did you ever want to stop and turn away from the world you created?
A: I’ve always said I’m drawn to the crash, not the landing. I want to explore the wreckage, the broken fragments, the things that which were once whole and are now scattered upon the ground. I never have that urge to stop or turn away because to me these moments that test us emotionally are moments we’re closest to the truth of our own infinite selves.
Q. Is your book based on personal experiences?
A. While the story itself is not based on personal experience, the landscape certainly is. The story takes place in the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio, which is a landscape very much reflective of my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio, where the hills speak, the creek paces in its own good time, and the roads are dirt-laid and grass-lined. That wildflower song, front porch chatter, and southern twang has shaped me as a writer. Having spent my childhood summers down-home was like being one of the rolling hills, forever rooted in rust and dirt and moon-shine magic.
Q. Do you have anything you would like to say to readers? And where can readers find you?
A. I would like to say to readers that without you, there are no novelists to be had. Readers give meaning to an author’s words. So if you like a book, tell everyone you know. Be that book’s champion because if you do, you’re being a champion for the author herself. My only hope is that readers like what I’ve written. That they can count on me to deliver a story that is worth both their time and their hard-earned money. Nothing would make me happier than to know a reader has finished one of my books with the pleasure of having read it. That’s what I strive for as an author. To be someone’s favorite author as so many authors have been mine.
As far as where readers can find me, I’m not on social media, but they can jump on to my website here at www.tiffanymcdaniel.com
Readers can also connect with me directly through my website. That connection to readers is very important to me. As I’ve said, they’re the ones who determine an author’s entire career. How can I not give them some of my time, when they’ve given me some of their time reading my book?
The novel is set in Ohio in the 1980s and starts off with Autopsy Bliss putting an add in the newspaper inviting the devil into his town. The devil shows up in the shape of a homeless black boy, who is the same age at Autopsy's son Fielding. Fielding find the devil, who calls himself Sal, and brings him back home. This does not only send the whole town into a heath wave, but also triggers the start of many bad events in the town.
Tiffany McDaniel tells this story in a surrealistic way, reminiscent of Paradise Lost by Milton. This is referenced by her starting each chapter by a line of two of the novel. Though you don't have to read Paradise Lost to understand this novel, the writing style becomes a lot clearer when you do. This is not just a real story about a family taking in a black boy. This is almost a Biblical story about who the devil is and how he can hide in the people we least expect it from.
What I thoroughly enjoyed while reading this was the coming of age element. Fielding is a young teenager in a white family. When Sal comes in, he is suddenly confronted with racism and discrimination. People already hate the devil before they even know who he is. Though Fielding tries to help Sal, we also see how young he is and how he's unable to resist the influence of certain people. I loved how Fielding isn't just an upright, always smart kid. He's growing up and discovering himself and his world and he hits a few serious bumps along the way in figuring that out.
This book is so much more than I can do justice to. It's about religion, race, love, family, abuse, death and so much more. All these themes are interwoven beautifully by McDaniel and you'll breeze through this novel on any hot summer day.