After the disappointment of book number two (see my post on The Parrots by Alexandra Shulman), I had high hopes for book number three. And I wasn’t let down.
The story begins when the improbably named local attorney Autopsy Bliss places an ad in the local newspaper, cordially inviting the devil to town. Why? Well the clue’s in the name – ‘autopsy’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘to see for oneself’. Autopsy wants to see the devil for himself. This coincides not only with a deadly heatwave, but with the arrival in town of a young black boy who calls himself Sal and proclaims himself the devil responding to the invitation. But is he really the devil, or just a traumatised boy?
For the town of Breathed Ohio, smothered by the heatwave and looking for someone to blame for several local tragedies, the centre cannot hold. Meanwhile, cracks are appearing in the baked earth of the Bliss family and the events of the summer will change their lives forever.
This book is a slow-burner, the sentences drip like melted ice cream, the words slowly smoulder like barbeque charcoal. You can almost feel the heat of the summer – or is it hell? – rising off the page.
I loved the imagery and language, and lines such as ‘He had felt the connection of another man, and in the clay of loneliness, he shaped it into something he called love’ left me open mouthed. Despite being so evocative, the language always feels spare and never flowery.
Sal, who is full of anecdotes about heaven and hell, explains that God allows suffering because He wants to see for Himself what we’ll do, and downplays the devil’s role in creating misery. But this book forces the reader to look behind the Judeo-Christian façade and asks us to think about the real nature of evil.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me goes back to the character’s name that seemed so ridiculous when I saw it on the book jacket: you have to see for yourself. I hope you never come face to face with true evil, but I do urge you to read this wonderful book for yourself,
This year I have set myself the challenge of reading 40 books. Pre-baby I'd have gone for the big 52, but that may be a tad too ambitious! I shall be posting a review of every book here on my blog, and welcome your comments and discussion.