Marie’s Reading: “Spill Simmer Falter Wither” by Sara Baume

spill simmer falter witherThanks very much to the Simply Books! book club reader who shared this one at our May meeting.  I’ll use her description, as taken down in my notes:

“This slim novel is unsettling, compelling but hard to read.  It’s the story of a man and his dog, both of them damaged.  The man has had a horrible childhood of isolation, no education or nurturing.  Like the dog he adopts, he’s pretty much feral.  Layers of his history are peeled back with each season, and the dog is his only connection.  The language is beautiful–since the man grew up so isolated, he practically speaks a language of his own.  Sad, grisly, blackly funny, traumatic…this novel has a lot going on, right up to the ambiguous ending.”



I devoured this novel.  Our SB reader was spot-on in her description, in everything from the plot to the language to the words she chose to evoke the feel of the story.

The language really is gorgeous.  Baume’s descriptive language is beautiful, especially when talking about the weather and the landscape and the change in seasons.  Her choice of words and her phrasing are unique and interesting, matching the rhythm of someone used to living mostly in his own head.  The second-person narrative, directed at One Eye (as the dog is dubbed), makes for a great depiction of empathy and connection.

Ray’s has been a life of total isolation.  He never went to school, only left the house for Mass, and now that his father has died he only leaves for his Tuesday trips to the shops.  Ray and One Eye find themselves on the run after a run-in with a neighborhood dog, and the tone of the book moves from sad and heart-wrenching to desperate and heart-wrenching as the seasons pass.

A reflection on the forgotten and the marginalized, as well as on how affectionate bonds can be forged in the most unlikely places.



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