Spill Simmer Falter Wither; Sara Baume
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - 2016
Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a debut novel about two wounded creatures (man and dog). The story takes place over the course of one year beginning in spring, in a rural Irish village.
Although we really never learn the man's name, one can assume it is Ray, as we learn it is the same as "sunbeams and winged and boneless sharks." Ray is a 57 years-old disabled man who has had a very sad and lonely life.
After Ray's father chokes to death, an incident he witnesses, Ray spends time reading and taking walks, but the people of the village view him as odd and shun him. For companionship he adopts a disfigured, abused dog he names "Oneeye". After an incident with another dog along their walk, the duo takes to the road traveling the seaside. As Ray unburdens his soul to the dog as they hit the road, the readers learn the lifetime of secrets and tragedy that Ray and, to a much lesser extent, Oyeeye has experienced.
The story is really Ray's story and the quiet way in which it unfolds, season by season, makes is difficult to avoid feeling at least some of the pain and loneliness that the protagonist has experienced. It's definitely not an upbeat story or even a story with a happy ending. It is, however, a beautifully rendered story. The author manages to show us not just the ugly side of humanity but, the beauty of all that surrounds us as well.
This is not a terribly long novel, but it is one that is best enjoyed slowly, the writing is beautiful.