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.
This book is about fear of the unknown, racism, loss of faith, domestic violence, religion and morality. So many themes run through this story that it looks like it may overwhelm what is going on but it doesn’t. This was the time that AIDS was just rearing its ugly head, life was different and but not people in general. This was so well written, so beautifully done, it makes it hard to put into words how I feel about it. You get caught up in the plot, lose yourself in the story and feel as if you are part of it in a way. I have to admit I did shed a tear at the end of it, the emotions over came me and I’m not afraid to admit this.
It made you take a look at just how cruel people are, it crawls into you and takes hold, forcing you to look at not only yourself and how you would act, but at others as well.
“It got me thinking about the things we are so certain about. Like the Devil. I put that invitation in the newspaper, and I thought that the devil with show and he will have a pitchfork and horns and be red all over. He’ll be mean and cruel and evil. I was so certain of that, and when you came, Sal. Not with a pitchfork but with a heart”
Sal was, in many ways, the perceived villain in this book. So much hatred towards the boy who claimed he was the devil, a 13-year-old black boy with eyes so green that they look unearthly. Some of the dialog that Sal delivers are deep and philosophical it makes you question if he indeed the devil or an angel. As people turned against him, they showed their ugly side and in a lot of ways showed that the devil resides in all of us. He turned out to be calm and voice of reason in a community that was breaking down due to their fears and anxieties.
“Pain is our most intimate encounter. It lives on the very inside of us, touching everything that makes us. It claims your bones, it masters your muscles, it reels in your strength, and you never see it again. The artistry of pain it its contact.”
The characters were flawed, oh so human in their pain, anger and sorrow. It was beautiful and dark, deep and intense. At the end of it, no words can describe the impact this book had on me.
ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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