HOLY MOLY, Y’ALL. This is a ROCKER of a debut novel! I’m not even sure where to start, honestly. Simply put, I loved this book. For more detail, do read on!
This book is about Fielding Bliss and what happens in his small Ohio town of Breathed the summer the devil, and his heat, came to town. Fielding’s father, Autopsy, invites the Devil to join them in their faithful and loving town. Shortly after the invitation is printed, a black boy at the age of 13, self declared Sal (Sa for Satan, L for Lucifer) shows up to lay claim to the name Devil. Thought to be more of a runaway than a Devil, the sheriff and Autopsy decide that Sal is okay to stay with the family until they can find his real family. Just as the heat melts away at all things sweet, it begins to melt away at all things felt… Common sense drips away like ice gone hot. Tragic accidents begin to be seen as Sal’s evil doing. By the close of the summer, the entire town melts into mania.
So- there is so much I loved about this book. It literally tackles so much, and so smoothly, within it’s two covers that I feel like I want to read it one more time. This is a book that has all kinds of issues tied in… You’ve got homosexuality, race, age, phobias, rage, forgiveness, coming of age, family, friendship, religion, love…. Literally, so much! McDaniel did an amazing job not overwhelming the reader with it all though. Other authors may have bogged down the story with all that, but she wrote this book so it would float like oil. Here were just a couple of my favorite topics she hit:
- Not living up to the standards others set for you, or trying to live them down.
- The entire book, Grand (Fielding’s brother), tries to live up to what his family wants him to be. Sure, he likes baseball, but did he really want to be a player his whole life? As Fielding pointed out, did he ever truly know who his brother was if he didn’t even know how he loved? Then you have Sal, the assumed Devil (he calls himself that for tragic reasons really…). The entire book he does and says things that make you think there is no way this intelligent, kind being is a devil. The whole book he tries to do right.. He spent the whole summer just wanting someone to tell him he wasn’t the devil he was accused of being.
- I loved the topic of sexuality brought into this book.
- I don’t want to give anything away…. but when *a certain character* turns out to be gay near the end, I was surprised… and heartbroken… Heartbroken because how sad of him to feel like he wasn’t worthy of the love another person had to give. That is all I can say without giving more.
- The Devil.
- I absolutely loved the way McDaniel was able to prove that the Devil takes more forms that what people see. Just as it’s said that God can be anywhere, so can the Devil. Not only that, but the Devil isn’t one person wholly. A person can be some Devil and not even mean it. How powerful that idea was to me.
- The names.
- Lets me serious, with names like Fielding Bliss, Grand, Autopsy, Stella (mom), Sal, etc… McDaniel has one heck of an imagination. All of the names were great. In their weirdness, I found comfort.
Literally the only issue I found in this book was the year that McDaniel choose for the setting. The racial tension felt more 50’s or 60’s to me… but, on the same hand, I understand that it needed to be the 80’s for the feared disease that came into play through the story.
Honestly, this book was great. It’s hard for me to believe that this is McDaniel’s first novel! What an interesting story she shared. Definitely worth the read! I plan on buying my own copy, how about you?