“I once heard someone refer to Breathed as the scar of the paradise we lost. So it was in many ways, a place with a perfect wound just below the surface.”
Why I loved this so much, because the devil is in the details… cough… or the people… or all of us. Revisiting the 80’s was a delight for me, even though it was a strange time this author writes about, something I nearly forgot. The ‘satantic worship’ craze, where the devil was everywhere!
But the novel isn’t necessarily focused on that, instead it delves into a small town and everyone’s secrets. A little boy named Sal, who answers an invitation from Autopsy Bliss for a visit from the Devil. The story creeps along, unpeeling every characters facade until they shed their old likable selves. The story burns bright to the end, such an unexpected horrifying end at that! I held my breath, my heart burned, I was so angry and sad! Small town prejudice, cult-like mentality (because it’s so much easier to hate when you have a leader making choices and pointing the finger for you), self-righteous beliefs, living a lie.. there is so much happening in this story. Even the sweet love between the devil (Sal) and the little beauty Dresden (such names in this story!) can’t remain untainted, turns bitter in my heart. No one gets out unscathed! I highlighted like a nutcase reading along, my heart sinking- relating to every person in the story. I love this line “Granny was my first loss, my first emptying.” But she was just the beginning. And “All love leads to cannibalism. I know that now. Sooner or later our hearts will devour, if not the object of our affections, our very selves. Teeth are the heart’s miracle. That a mouth should burst forth on that organ without a throat and crave another’s flesh, another’s heart, is nothing short of a miracle.”
From Fielding Bliss, we find out why the devil (Sal) was blamed for setting off events and tragedy that touched everyone in Breathed. His own brother Grand, his mother and father welcome the devil to stay and it isn’t long before Fielding sees with clarity who his family really is, what they hide, what was once experienced as normal comes into question (even a mother who can’t seem to leave her house). It’s funny how you don’t question the oddness in your own home until seen through another’s perceptive eye.
It’s hard to review without giving the novel away so I refuse to ruin it, but I loved it. Literary gold, the sentences and writing was often strange but beautiful. The story itself is unusual and I felt a little of what the town experienced with Sal’s presence. Heartbreaking, horrible, loving, such a strange sad mixture of emotions evoked by a book with a strange title. The title makes sense at the end! I am going to recommend this novel like crazy.
What Autopsy didn’t know when he offered the invitation to the devil was… you don’t have to offer an open invitation, the devil is already residing in us all.