Wednesday, December 14, 2016


In this debut novel, a surly, crazy old man named Fielding reflects on an eventful summer in 1984 during his childhood in rural Ohio. It was the summer that brought one of the biggest heat waves in history. The summer when Fielding's family invited the devil into their home.  It's a cool concept and a great idea for a coming of age story.
The heat was making people behave on their most terrible side. Maybe it even gave them the confidence to act foolishly, rashly, without real reason. Hands in such heat bloom to fists. Fists are the flora of the mad season.
Many positive reviews are mentioning their surprise that this is a first time novelist. Now I'm not an expert or anything but there were many times when I recognized things that felt like the symptoms of a first novel, and many of these things got in the way of the story really reaching it's full potential. Besides the overbearing nostalgia that gets distracting, the book is also pretty long-winded. McDaniel is clearly a great word slinger, but I'm attracted to writing that finds a better balance between poetry and efficiency, and this could've been half the length and would've been even more effective. At first, I was enamored by the prose, but eventually I was constantly tempted to skim entire passages, especially the seemingly endless stories and fables that the character Sal would start spewing, bringing the pace to a screeching halt. It was as if McDaniel tried to fit as many ideas as she could into the book. I think many readers will find a lot to like in this book, and I think that McDaniel has great promise, but next time she simply needs to just get out of the way a little and let that great story fly.


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