Thirteen-year-old Berry survives a very hot summer in the small town of Pinetta, Florida. As the daughter of the school principal, her family has more money than most, but that doesn't mean they have air conditioning or any of the trappings of rich people. The long hot days run languidly into each other, with Berry and her brothers hanging out in the yard, spending time with neighbors, and avoiding the snakes that seem to appear everywhere.
This particular summer, many important things happen that will shape Berry's life and the lives of those she loves. Their town is hit by a hurricane that destroys almost as much as it leaves intact. Thinking it is just a rain storm, Berry's father leaves to drive a girl home after the end of school dance and disappears. A chain gang comes to help with the clean-up and reconstruction, and Berry takes a liking to a handsome prisoner whom she later finds out has killed someone.
Set in the Bible Belt in the 1950s, the town's religious divisions fuel the motivations of the characters and their actions. Evenly divided between the strict Baptists and the methodical Methodists, the residents of Pinetta don't fail to point out faults of the others while often remaining oblivious to their own. Some of the events that happen cause huge scandals, but it's really only reality coming to light.
As Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank Me is meaningful and touching, and the characters will stay with you long after you put the book down. Kincaid captures the heart of the people and events described and provides an emotionally poignant story of a young girl in transition.