Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
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.
I often feel that when I finish a really fantastic book that it is harder for me to write a review on it than it is to write one for a book that was just alright for me. I went through such a wide and varied range of emotions while reading this one that it is rather difficult to process my thoughts and feelings, much less put them into words that give this piece of work the credit that it is due, but I will do my best.
This is yet another book where I feel the reader should go into it knowing as little as possible, so I apologize in advance if I’m annoyingly vague. The story is told from the perspective of Fielding Bliss, who is now elderly but was thirteen in the summer of 1984 when the devil came to his town of Breathed, Ohio. The town itself is its own character as the heart and soul of this book is based on this town on the brink. It’s apparent from the get go that terrible things will happen in Breathed during the summer, but what actually takes place is deeper and more bothersome than anyone could possibly imagine.
I’m amazed that this is McDaniel’s debut novel as she writes like a seasoned pro. Her use of language is powerful, hypnotic and haunting and the symbolism has such a lyrical beauty to it. On top of her stellar writing, she is unabashedly bold in the topics she covers. She tackles, racism, homophobia, abuse, death, AIDS, and cult like mentalities. All very heavy, but somehow, despite the seriousness of all of these topics, she manages to bring such a profound clarity to important issues. Every single character is well crafted and complex, from Autopsy, Stella, Grand, Sal, Eloheim and the various residents of Breathed. I was very engrossed in these people’s lives and invested in what their outcome would be, even if I knew that there were ominous things ahead.
For me, one sign of a great book is when it makes me feel. Well, I really felt a plethora of things both during and since I finished this. I was heartbroken, angry, saddened, devastated, in utter disbelief, but most importantly to me, I felt like this was like no other book I have read before, it is in its own unique and original category and I cannot wait to see what McDaniel comes up with next.
Overall rating: 5/5
Thanks to Chelsea at The Suspense Is Thrilling Me and the author for my copy.