SPILL SIMMER FALTER WITHER by Sara Baume

SPILL SIMMER FALTER WITHER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ray, a disabled man, adopts One Eye, a rescue dog injured while badger baiting, in this debut novel.

We get to know Ray as he speaks to One Eye: “I’m fifty-seven. Too old for starting over, too young for giving up.” We learn he leaves his lonely home on the coast of Ireland once a week to visit the post office and the grocery store. He used to attend Mass, but he hasn’t been lately. He’s a reader and uses the “mobile library.” Ray is alone and both appears and feels different than other people. He tells One Eye, “Sometimes I see the sadness in you, the same sadness that’s in me….My sadness isn’t a way I feel but a thing trapped inside the walls of my flesh, like a smog.” In another passage he explains, “The nasturtiums have it figured out, how survival’s just a matter of filling the gaps between sun up and sun down.” One Eye is a good companion—he gets Ray out of the house more—but he's trained to bite badgers and not let go. Unfortunately, he does the same thing to other dogs, which propels a sad, quiet story into a desperate one. The novel is set in an unspecified time before mobile phones, but even if it’s meant to be a few decades ago, it seems unreal that Ray could grow up without attending school and without any social services intervention. Baume perhaps means to make a statement about marginalized people who live unnoticed in the midst of their communities, but something doesn’t quite ring true in Ray’s isolation. The vague, sad ending doesn't help.

Beautiful prose renders a tragically ugly picture with only the loyal but doomed love between man and dog to redeem it.

Pub Date: March 8th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-544-71619-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2016




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