Spill Simmer Falter Wither

Sara Baume. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-544-71619-3
A solitary misfit opens up to his one-eyed dog in this debut novel. Ray describes himself as old (he's 57), shabbily dressed, and sketchily bearded, pitching and clomping when he walks. He first sees the dog in an animal shelter advertisement: a grisly photo of a mangled canine face. The kennel keeper says the dog attacks other dogs; its scars suggest it was used for badger hunting. Ray is familiar with abuse: his father, understanding Ray is "not right-minded," raised him in confined isolation. Ray reads, drives, and knows he's not a regular person. Following his father's death, he remains in his father's house alone until he adopts the dog he calls One Eye. When One Eye attacks another dog, incurring the owner's wrath, Ray takes One Eye on the road, traveling from one Irish village to another, sleeping in the car. By the time they return home, they have spent a year together, and their friendship is fixed. Baume's storytelling can be indirect. She never mentions Ray's name, only that he's named for a sunbeam or a sand shark. Nor does she specify Ray's impairment. As a narrator, he shows observation skills, appreciation for landscape, and awareness of fear and sadness. For One Eye, he's full of empathy. Baume's debut is notable for its rhythmic language, sensory imagery (especially visuals and smells), and second-person narrative directed at an animal. She is brutal detailing brutality, lyrical contemplating land and sea, and at her best evoking the connection between man and dog. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/11/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-544-71622-3
Hardcover - 349 pages - 978-1-4104-9274-6
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-544-95461-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-3608-3
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