My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: July 26th, 2016
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Point of View: 1st Person & Masculine
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Magical Realism, Contemporary
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.
What an atmospheric book.
But don’t think that because it’s atmospheric, it’s necessarily wonderful, in the traditional sense of the word.
In fact, this is a very melancholic story. What is ‘‘wonderful’’ about it, though, is how the author pieced the story together.
We follow Fielding when he is a young teen and meets Sal AKA the Devil, but we also meet him at different points in his life – when he is a new adult, a middle-aged man and even a grandparent’s age!
Multiple people have mentioned this already, but this is not a happy book. I don’t know what you’re expecting out of it, by reading the blurb, but I hope it’s not humour, adventure or romance, because this is not what this is about.
Some of the things that make this book more ‘‘unhappy’’ than ‘‘happy’’ is all the discrimination against people of color and LGBT people that is represented (in good context), as well as Fielding’s personality later in life. He is not the same Fielding he was in his teen years. Not at all.
And so, as I was reading the story, I kept wondering: Why? Why has he changed so much? What made him so cynical and negative and a little bit (very) crazy?
Like I said, the way the author pieced the story together is one great thing about this book. We may go back and forth in time, but our attention never falters. On the contrary, because it makes us ask questions, it keeps us invested in the story.
Also, only FYI, there is no ‘‘plot’’ exactly, a little bit like ‘‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’’ or ‘‘All the Wonderful Things,’’ so things are not progressing at a fast pace.
But go with the flow, because it’s worth it!
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