This is a book to be savored. It is not an uplifting book. It is not a book for everyone. It’s upsetting. It’s beyond depressing. But it’s still important and it’s still worth savoring. McDaniel transports us to a little town in Ohio in the 1980’s, which still manages to feel like a town straight out of the 1950’s. Following Fielding Bliss and his newfound friend Sal, this is a story about family, about love, about hatred, about belief, about faith, and about pure evil. It’s about how we try to help our loved ones, unintentionally hurting and ruining them in the process. It’s about how little we can protect ourselves once pure evil takes hold in a group of people. Two days after finishing it, my heart still aches. I can’t stop thinking about it.
Fielding is our narrator. His father’s name is Autopsy Bliss, and Autopsy has published an invitation to the Devil in the newspaper. Sal shows up, a thirteen year old black boy claiming to be the Devil. The Bliss family inevitably takes him in, and we watch the world implode in heat and hate. As this implosion occurs, we, as readers, are treated to heartrendingly beautiful prose. There are hints of how all of the pieces and storylines come together scattered throughout the narrative, but I never did guess how it all fit together. It made sense when it did, though, and wasn’t out of left field. The characters are compelling, even the ones you hate. Each character, whether hugely important or seen in passing, is fleshed out as a unique personality, and ends up becoming important whether you realize it or not. For these reasons, the slow burn of the narrative never seems to drag. It seems headed to some inevitable tragic conclusion, like a very slow trainwreck, but it’s still worth reading. It’s important for us to read it and remember how hate ruins everything.
If you’re looking for a light read, don’t pick up this book. If you’re looking for a quick read, it isn’t that either. If you’re looking for literary fiction, you’d be on the right track. If you’re looking for a book that explores the darker side of human nature, go for it. If you want something that will stick with you for awhile, and continue to break your heart, then this book is it. I loved it, while simultaneously hating many things that occurred. It’s that kind of book.
Recommend: Yes, but not necessarily for everyone.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars–not quite perfect, did take me awhile to get completely sucked in